Orlando Sentinel Editor Ousted in Restructuring

Veteran journalist Mark Russell's tenure was marked by coverage of the Trayvon Martin case and the Florida A&M hazing scandal.

Mark Russell (Rud Huber/Orlando Sentinel via Richard Prince's Journal-isms)
Mark Russell (Rud Huber/Orlando Sentinel via Richard Prince's Journal-isms)

Mark Russell, whose nearly three years as editor of the Orlando Sentinel were marked by coverage of the Trayvon Martin case and the hazing death of a marching band member at Florida A&M University, was ousted Wednesday in a reorganization that eliminated his job.

Russell was replaced by Avido Khahaifa [pdf], a corporate manager who is also African American and for whom the editor’s job will be an additional role. Both men were at the National Association of Black Journalists convention last week in nearby Kissimmee, Fla.

Staffers said Khahaifa, once a journalist but most recently a manager over the business and editorial sides, is a cost-cutter who believes that the newsroom is too large.

Khahaifa has been with the Sentinel since 2005, most recently as a senior vice president and director of content,” according to a Sentinel story by Jason Garcia. “In his new post, Khahaifa will retain the director-of-content title and will oversee the day-to-day operation of the Sentinel’s newsroom.”

Russell was not present Wednesday when Howard Greenberg, publisher of the Tribune Co.-owned Sentinel, made the newsroom announcement. In a memo, Greenberg said Khahaifa “will add editor responsibilities to his role, and will now oversee the day-to-day Orlando newsroom management, in addition to leading regional editorial strategy.”

Khahaifa also has a management role with the Sentinel’s sister paper, the South Florida SunSentinel.

“With this change, Mark’s direct reports will report to Avido. In South Florida Sun Sentinel Editor Howard Saltz, who previously reported to Avido, will now report to me,” Greenberg’s memo continued.

In March, the Sentinel staff won the Freedom Forum/American Society of News Editors Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity in the aftermath of the Martin case, in which the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watchman eventually became a national story.

“Their multi-platform series not only tackles the history of race relations, but also delves into the complexity of ethnicity and race in order to shatter stereotypical myths,” the announcement said. “The reporters and editors accomplished this under tough conditions — a tragic shooting that went viral internationally.”

The Sentinel was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist this year in the local news category.

Staffers David Breen, Stephen Hudak, Jeff Kunerth and Denise-Marie Ordway were honored “for their aggressive coverage of hazing rituals by the Florida A&M University marching band that killed a drum major and led to the resignation of the band leader and the university president.”

Russell says in his LinkedIn profile, “I’m the Editor of the Orlando Sentinel, having worked 29 years in the news business, first as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, covering a range of business and political topics. I also worked as an editor at The Plain Dealer and the Boston Globe. At The Plain Dealer, I was Business Editor for four years, and then the Assistant Managing Editor/Region for five years. I joined the Sentinel in October 2004 as managing editor and became Editor in October 2010. I have served four years as a Pulitzer prize juror, including the last two years.”

Greenberg concluded his staff memo, “Mark’s last day is this Friday. On behalf of everyone at the Orlando Sentinel, I thank Mark for his dedicated service and leadership in the newsroom over the last nine years. He has been instrumental in moving us to a more digital focus while maintaining our tradition of strong journalism.”

Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff to Co-Anchor PBS “NewsHour”

The PBS ‘NewsHour,’ which was co-anchored for decades by the two men who created it, will soon be co-anchored by two women,” Brian Stelter reported Tuesday for the New York Times.

“PBS announced on Tuesday that Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff would take over the nightly newscast in September, putting an end to the rotating anchor format that has been in effect for several years. Ms. Ifill and Ms. Woodruff will also share the managing-editor responsibilities for the program.

“The appointments are another milestone for women on television and in journalism, seven years after Katie Couric became the first female solo anchor of a network nightly newscast. PBS noted in a news release that ‘this will mark the first time a network broadcast has had a female co-anchor team.’ “

Stelter continued: “Ms. Ifill, who is black, said that she and Ms. Woodruff were mindful of the broader significance of their appointment. ‘When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color,’ she said.

” ‘I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal — that it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all,’ she added. . . .”

The PBS news release continued, “It was also announced that Hari Sreenivasan will serve as Senior Correspondent for the PBS NEWSHOUR with Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, reporting several times a week from WNET’s Tisch Studios in New York, along with his duties anchoring PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND Saturdays and Sundays beginning September 7.

“In addition, three PBS NEWSHOUR correspondents have been given specific areas of content responsibility and will be contributing on a daily basis to both the broadcast and online operation. Jeffrey Brown was named Chief Correspondent for Arts, Culture, and Society. Ray Suarez was named Chief National Correspondent. And Margaret Warner was named Chief Foreign Correspondent. . . .”

To Jeff Bezos: “Good on Diversity” Won’t Be Good Enough

“Dear Mr. Bezos:

Congratulations on buying the Washington Post,” Farai Chideya, multimedia journalist and distinguished writer in residence at New York University, wrote Tuesday. “And no, I’m not saying that while waving you off into the sunset. I hope you succeed. It will be a tall task to ‘invent’ and ‘experiment’ while also living by your statement that ‘The values of The Post do not need changing.’ — all words from your letter to the employees of the Washington Post.

“In 2010, the Post’s Ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote a piece titled ‘Newsroom diversity: Falling short could be fatal.’ He stated, ‘All told, journalists of color comprise about 24 percent of the newsroom, comfortably above the ASNE [American Society of News Editors] census average of roughly 13 percent in recent years. But here’s the problem: Minorities are 43 percent of The Post’s circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward ‘majority minority’ status. For The Post, being ‘good on diversity’ isn’t enough.’

“I agree with Alexander. . . . “

Chideya’s letter was addressed to Jeff Bezos, who agreed to buy the Washington Post newspaper for $250 million, it was announced on Monday. Bezos is founder of Amazon.com, but this is an individual, not a company purchase.

Amazon’s record on diversity is a mystery; it refuses to release its diversity figures.

A Seattle Times series last year shows the company’s secretiveness on diversity is not its only aspect that bears a closer look.

In a four-part series beginning today, The Seattle Times gives readers a glimpse inside the company,” the Times wrote last year.

It added, “as Amazon prepares to turn 18 this summer, its practices are drawing increasing scrutiny, from civic leaders in its hometown to lawmakers around the country, from business partners to labor activists.

“In a four-part series, The Seattle Times gives readers a glimpse behind the Amazon smile.

“We found that the company is a virtual no-show in the civic life of Seattle, contributing to nonprofits and charities a tiny fraction of what other big corporations give. In the political world, the company’s hardball efforts to fend off collecting sales taxes — a key advantage over brick-and-mortar stores — has ignited a backlash in several states. In the publishing world, smaller companies have begun to publicly criticize Amazon’s bullying tactics. And in some of its warehouses around the country, Amazon is drawing fire for harsh conditions endured by workers. . . .”

Amazon.com: Leadership Principles

Delfin Carbonell, Fox News Latino: Jeff Bezos, Digital Gutenberg, Takes Over The Future Of Print News

Brent Cunningham, Columbia Journalism Review: Q&A: Steve Coll on the WaPo purchase

Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Four questions about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ $250 million purchase of The Washington Post

Neil Foote blog: Bezos Purchase of WashPost Will Reinvent Struggling Brand

Fox News Latino: Jeffrey Bezos, From Precocious Kid To Visionary And, Now, Newspaper Owner

Thomas Heath, Washington Post: Graham is likely to continue to diversify company

Jefferson Morley, JFKFacts: The Post, Amazon, and the CIA

David Remnick, New Yorker: Donald Graham’s Choice

Michelle Singletary, Washington Post: The day my company was sold

David Taintor, Adweek: Will Amazon and Washington Post Work Together? Who Knows?!

Lynne K. Varner, Seattle Times: Amazon.com owner Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post

Jenna Wortham and Amy O’Leary, New York Times: Bezos Brings Promise of Innovation to Washington Post

ESPN Co-Hosts in Skirmish at NABJ Convention Party

Always looking for new programming ideas, ESPN has come up with another — battling co-hosts,” Bob Raissman reported Wednesday for the Daily News in New York.

Hugh Douglas, a first-round pick of the Jets in 1995, apparently had too much to drink last Friday night when he accosted his ‘Numbers Never Lie’ co-host Michael Smith and vowed to beat him to a pulp during a party thrown by the National Association of Black Journalists at the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla.

‘”The Big Lead website reported Douglas called Smith an ‘Uncle Tom’ and a ‘House n—–.’ Douglas, a 6-2, 280-pounder who spent 10 seasons in the NFL, was apparently trying to get on stage to join the DJ. He became incensed when Smith was hesitant to assist him. That’s when Douglas threatened to punch Smith out. Smith attempted to walk away, but Douglas grabbed him by the wrist before [partygoers] intervened to break things up. An ESPN spokesman said network suits were aware of the altercation and ‘were looking into the situation.’ Still, it remains to be seen if Douglas and Smith will be able to work together. . . .”

In an NABJ Facebook discussion, one member said, “I was at this party and I can tell you most people had no clue this happened.”

George Thomas, Akron Beacon Journal: Details emerge of altercation between ESPN co-hosts