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Call Them Liars in the Headline

September 3, 2012

L.A. Times not waiting for pieces by a fact checker; "maybe it's no surprise Time's culture rejected me"; . . . the story is the fragility of the black middle class; Harris-Perry explodes in discussion of the poor; Teresa Wiltz joins Essence as a deputy editor; Bradley Bennett leaves newspapers to save the planet; former N.Y. Times Co. papers end endorsements; Sun Myung Moon, Washington Times founder, 92; Kansas City fears Google will add to digital divide (9/3/12)

L.A. Times Not Waiting for Pieces by a Fact Checker

"Maybe It's No Surprise Time's Culture Rejected Me"

". . . Now, eight months after leaving my job, there's no use pretending everything's fine," Steven Gray, Time's last African American correspondent, wrote Monday for salon.com. "For much of the year, I've been among the roughly 8.2 million Americans considered 'part-time employed.' My world seemed rich with possibility only a couple of years ago. In August 2009, I was promoted to be bureau chief on a high-profile project. Time Inc., one of the world's largest publishers, bought a six-bedroom house near downtown Detroit that'd become an office, conference space and living quarters for visiting executives, editors and reporters from the company's very autonomous magazines – Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated.

". . . the project succeeded, and brought me to the attention of John Huey, the company's editor-in-chief. A Southerner who came of age in the civil rights era, Huey has for years fought to break up Time's very white, very Ivy League fraternity. As a reward for the Detroit assignment, Huey gave me a one-year contract to report from Washington for Time.

Steven Gray

"It was complicated. Projects of mine that were quickly green-lit in Chicago and Detroit suddenly weren't taken seriously — in one case, until a new, white reporter pitched the Washington bureau chief a similar idea. When I felt excluded from covering politics, I didn't complain — it's so easy to be labeled a whiner, especially when you're black. It's tricky challenging a seemingly omnipotent bureau chief — especially when you're on a contract. So I kept my head down, hoped to break through a rough patch by writing about topics no one else was covering, including race. Then, I was reminded of an editor's warning: To succeed at Time, don't write about race, or what it means to be black.

"Part of my issue, surely, was the transition from field to office work. Some of the people who'd promoted my career had left. The last straw came last year, when the magazine announced the team that would cover the 2012 presidential campaign — a reason I'd agreed to take the job. I wasn't on the list. The team included a 20-something who'd been an unpaid intern the previous summer. Last December, the managing editor, Rick Stengel, hosted a lunch in the Washington Bureau's glass-walled conference room to discuss plans for covering the campaign. As the former intern stumbled through her idea, I got up, and walked out of the room. An advertising executive who watched part of the episode emailed, 'Everything okay?' I wrote back that it was like a 'country club.' Maybe it's no surprise that Time's culture rejected me. . . ."

In June, the National Association of Black Journalists awarded its 2012 Thumbs Down Award to Time magazine "for its lack of diversity within its reporting corps."

. . . The Story Is the Fragility of the Black Middle Class

Steven Gray's essay for salon.com weaves his personal story into a larger one: the status of the black middle class.

"On the night of Barack Obama's election, I was reporting in the crowd of Chicago's Grant Park, and like many Americans felt hopeful that our country was finally ready to deal with the vexing matters of race," it begins. "Obama's election was an incalculable accomplishment, and the arrival of a middle-class black family in the White House seemed to tell the world that the American Dream is alive, that our country's establishment has successfully absorbed a people it once enslaved, and unapologetically marginalized.

"And yet, when the Obamas moved into the White House, the country's economy was already in free fall, and its fragile black middle class was, to put it simply, vanishing. Between 2005 and 2009, the year the Great Recession officially ended, the average black household's wealth fell by more than half, to $5,677, even as their white peers held about $113,000 in assets. Nearly one-quarter of African-Americans have no assets besides a car, and roughly the same share have lost their homes, or they're close. The African-American unemployment rate hovers around 14 percent, and according to a Pew report released in July, nearly 70 percent of blacks raised in families at the middle of the wealth ladder fall to the bottom two rungs as adults. The exodus of blacks from cities like Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans and even Detroit is driving a sense of eroding political power. Perhaps most depressingly, one in three black boys can expect to be incarcerated at some point in his life. . . . "

Gray told Journal-isms by email, "I'd been trying to do this story since I was in Detroit for Time, but the magazine wasn't interested. Nevertheless, I kept gathering string after moving to DC. The statistical evidence was mounting, and I was living a lot of this stuff. When I left the magazine, I knew this was one of the projects I wanted to pursue. It was luck/good timing that Barbara Ehrenreich was developing the [Economic Hardship Reporting Project].

"I spent about a month reporting the story proposal, and then we shopped it around to a couple outlets, starting with the NYT Magazine. Thankfully, Salon took the piece. In total, it took about five months finish the project — including some time in Louisiana going through family property records."

Melissa Harris-Perry said on her MSNBC show, "What is riskier than living poor in America?" (Video)

Harris-Perry Explodes in Discussion of the Poor

"Melissa Harris-Perry had what was probably her most passionate and intense television outburst ever when she delivered a fiery monologue about being poor in America on her Saturday show," the Huffington Post reported on Sunday.

"The moment occurred during a long segment on what Harris-Perry felt was the demonization of welfare recipients as 'undeserving' of aid. She clashed repeatedly with guest Monica Mehta, labeled by the show as a business and finance expert.

"Harris-Perry's frustration with Mehta rose perceptibly when Mehta said that welfare payments should not be 'limitless.'

" 'Limitless?!' Harris-Perry shot back. 'The limits currently ... established under a Democratic president are appalling.'

"A few minutes later, Harris-Perry, referring to the debate about welfare recipients 'deserving' aid, said, 'I just feel like, from the bottom, you have to be able to say, "I deserve the ability for class mobility." '

" 'Which is funded by public education, by low-cost health care,' guest Nancy Giles said. 'Which is enabled by taking risks,' Mehta cut in.

"Slamming her hands down on her desk, Harris-Perry exploded:

" 'What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously, what in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. . . . ' "

Teresa Wiltz Joins Essence as a Deputy Editor

Teresa Wiltz, who has been a reporter or editor at the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and theRoot.com, starts work Tuesday as a deputy editor at Essence magazine, the Time Inc. publication for black women plans to announce Tuesday.

Teresa Wiltz

"Wiltz will be responsible for management, conceptual planning, development and top editing the News and Culture department, as well as center-of-book features," a spokeswoman said by email.

Wiltz worked in the Tempo section of the Tribune from 1991 to 1999, then worked in the Washington Post Style section as a writer or editor until 2008. She was a senior culture writer and senior editor at theRoot.com until 2011.

The Essence editorial team is led by Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief; Vanessa K. Bush, executive editor; Greg Monfries, creative director; and deputy editor Rosemarie Robotham.

Bradley Bennett Leaves Newspapers to Save the Planet

Just three months ago in this space, we were writing about Bradley C. Bennett, a member of the inaugural class of the Maynard Media Academy who was in the Middle East as senior editor at the National, an English-language broadsheet based in the former desert fishing village of Abu Dhabi.

"I would encourage more black journalists who are seeing fewer opportunities in America to spread their wings a little, and try for a job in the Middle East or the Far East, where newspapers are generally thriving," Bennett said.

Bradley C. Bennett

On Monday, Bennett posted his message on his Facebook page:

"Yesterday, after 22 years of working as a writer and/or editor in the newspaper business, I left the industry to join the corporate communications department at Masdar, a renewable-energy company that strives to make life on our planet Earth more sustainable. May God continue to bless me and my family in my exciting new career!!!"

Bennett explained in a message to Journal-isms:

"I was enjoying my job at The National, and I wasn't really looking for this opportunity. Masdar approached me through a headhunter via my LinkedIn profile. So I can tell you it's a good thing to always keep that updated! I was then presented with the choice between remaining in newspaper journalism, which has a precarious future at best — especially in the States — and renewable energy, which has a very bright future and is growing exponentially. The choice was clear. I can now use my writing and editing skills to help protect the future of our planet for my children and, eventually, my children's children."

Bennett is a former assistant city editor of the Miami Herald's Broward Edition who left the Herald in 2007 to become executive editor of the Broward Times, a black weekly later renamed the South Florida Times.

He and his family left for Abu Dhabi in 2010.

Former N.Y. Times Co. Papers End Endorsements

The former regional newspapers of the New York Times Co. will no longer endorse candidates, on orders of new owners the Halifax Media Group, the newspapers told readers over the weekend.

Halifax closed a deal in January to buy 16 regional newspapers from the New York Times Co. for $143 million. They are primarily in the Southeast and in California.

In an editorial Sunday, the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., noted, "The Oregonian recently told readers that it would not make an endorsement in this year's presidential race. The Chicago Sun-Times announced in January that it would stop recommending candidates, noting, 'our goal ... is to inform and influence your thinking, not tell you what to do.'

"These changes are founded on the belief that endorsements fuel a perception that newspapers are biased, and the best solution is for newspapers to stick to what they do best — giving readers the information they need to make decisions for themselves.

"Halifax Media Group, which acquired The Press Democrat in January, has had a no-endorsement practice for its flagship paper in Daytona Beach, Fla. The company has now decided to adopt this policy for all of its member newspapers, including The Press Democrat.

"For most of these publications, it will mean no change. The majority of these newspapers, including some that were previously part of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group along with The Press Democrat, already had removed political endorsements from their list of editorial offerings. We were one of those that still offered recommendations on candidates."

In June, Halifax bought from Freedom Communications eight daily and 11 weekly publications in Florida and North Carolina.

Sun Myung Moon, Washington Times Founder, 92

"The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests, died on Monday in Gapyeong, South Korea," Daniel J. Wakin reported Monday for the New York Times. "He was 92.

Sun Myung Moon". . . Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles."

Hyung-Jin Kim reported Monday for the Associated Press that Moon "leaves behind children who have been groomed to lead a religious movement famous for its mass weddings and business interests — if family feuds don't bring down the empire."

Kansas City Fears Google Will Add to Digital Divide

"Google is poised to stumble into Kansas City's racial past, entangled in the historic boundary between black and white that is Troost Avenue," Mary Sanchez wrote Thursday for the Kansas City Star.

"Sept. 10 is the day of reckoning. That's the day after Google's deadline for people to pre-register for its ultra-fast Internet service.

"Predictions of a backlash that Google neither fathomed nor intended are being voiced this week in community meetings with company representatives.

". . . The maps tell the story. The demarcation line of Troost is stark.

"Areas shaded green, with enough pre-registrations to be wired with the new service, lie west of Troost. Areas to the East remain yellow and are not meeting goals set by Google.

"Not enough pre-registrations could mean there won't be wiring to those neighborhoods' schools, community centers, police stations, libraries — a range of public buildings that Google promised free access if goals were met.

"Few schools east of Troost have hit the percentage of pre-registrations of surrounding homeowners that Google deemed necessary to trigger the free hookups. Low-income areas of Kansas City, Kan., also are struggling."

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