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3 Approaches to Kissing the Paycheck Goodbye

Two years ago, the Fort Mill (S.C.) Times, a 19,500-circulation weekly owned by the McClatchy Co., proudly announced that "Toya Graham will be joining the Fort Mill Times staff as an assistant editor. Graham, currently a reporter covering the crime and courts beats for the The Herald, the Times' sister daily, will begin her new position Tuesday, Feb. 10."

The Herald is a reference to the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald, a McClatchy-owned daily also in York County.

A year later, in 2010, McClatchy announced 10 President's Awards for journalism excellence. Graham's name was on the list.  "Mary Jo Balasco's stories on the horrific burns of 13-year-old Connor McKemey and his three dozen surgeries and long road to recovery. . . . The Herald and reporter Toya Graham continued to follow throughout the year."

Now, in 2011, Graham has been ousted.

There is more than one way to leave a place of employment, and Graham chose to publicize the circumstances.

She wrote to Journal-isms in this edited email:

"Until May 17, I was the assistant news editor for the Fort Mill Times newspaper, part of the McClatchy newschain, the third largest in the country. I had been with them for 10 years and two months, and I was the only African American journalist/news editor for four of their papers in York County area. Now there are no blacks. I was let go b/c I was 'not the right fit for Fort Mill,' our human resource director, Beth Taylorsen, said. I contacted . . . four attorneys, and one of them said what the human resource director said translated to I'm not 'lily white enough for lily white Fort Mill.'

"After eight years with The Herald, I transferred to the Fort Mill Times. In the two years and two months I'd been in the Fort Mill office, I have been refused job training by my co-editor. Any training I received, I obtained by attending seminars with the S.C. Press Association. I paid them more than $300 to receive some training my co-editor should have given me. Additionally, I was played second to a white, part-time journalist who wrote four to five stories weekly to my 10 to 13 stories. I have received more than eight S.C. Press Association awards and a McClatchy President's award, the highest a McClatchy employee can get and until my arrival at the Times received stellar work evaluations.

"Bottom line: It's still surreal what happened to me. I stand in disbelief and my heart is broken."

Asked whether she was speaking for the record, Graham replied:

"Every bit of it is true. I may not even get unemployment benefits.

"I have been through pure hell. I even asked human resources to mediate and after two years, it was still a nightmare so I asked for an outside mediator last December and she never made that happen. I oversee/oversaw a back to school supply drive and a coat drive, campaigns that I presented to The Herald to help needy people. When corporates came down from Calif. to present my president's award (check McClatchy's website for President award honorees, my name is there) they even knew my name without looking at cue cards because of the school supply drive.

"You have my word, every word I type is true. As I type tears are threatening to spill. As God is my witness, I am telling the truth. I have the NAACP involved and will be completing EEOC paperwork before hiring an attorney."

Asked for comment, Peter Tira, communications director for McClatchy, said, "We don't comment on personnel issues. I'm sorry I can't be of more help."

"Reporters and editors like to think they don't have bosses, believing almost to a one that they answer to a higher authority, namely 'Journalism.' The guy who signs their checks? A paper-pusher. The people who try to give them orders in the newsroom? Subhuman obstructions to ignore.

"Only when a journalist is fired or quits does the complete fury he feels for those quacking mallards who have made his life miserable begin to surface. Instead of verbally venting after getting sacked, the smart journalist takes a road trip and works through his anger by killing chipmunks and other small game. Only greedy, slightly stupid journalists accept severance packages. They almost always come with do-not-disparage clauses, which are known to cause cancer in journalists.

"Some journalists settle the score with their 'bosses' immediately. But my favorites are those who take weeks, months, or even years to settle the score with the institution or individual that they think tormented them. In honor of every journalist who flipped the boss off on the way out the door, I've collected a few of their best kiss-off notes and gestures from the recent past. If, after reading, you don't turn in your badge and burn every bridge and causeway behind you and fill with sewage every tunnel and viaduct that connects you to your former place of employment, I've failed in my mission. . . ."

Among Schafer's favorites:

" 'After extensive study of history, I believe 'Latino' - as used in the Los Angeles Times - is the most recent attempt at genocide perpetrated against the native people of the Americas. I also posit this new genocide is far more dangerous than the old fashioned murder and relocation efforts.'

"- Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, in her 3,400-word letter of resignation to her editors at the Los Angeles Times, early 2001."

. . . Simply Say, "It Just Didn't Work Out"

"Many of you know her as 'The Black Snob,' "  Betsy Rothstein wrote Monday for FishbowlDC. "On Friday Danielle Belton left her job as Managing Editor of theLoop21, a website focusing on African American issues that seeks to advance Black economic progress by discussing politics, finance and culture. The publisher, Darrell Williams, is an economist and former prof at UCLA.

"But something smells fishy. Belton cites 'changes in editorial direction' as to why she left, but says little more. Then she details all the many, many ways in which she helped the site succeed. Why state that the largest story in the site's entire three-year history was hers? Indeed, that story was a whopper. It was her interview with close friend Yesha Callahan, the woman to whom ex-Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) sent the infamous photograph of his bare chest via Craigslist.

"Belton ultimately wished the publication well in its relaunch later this month. She told FishbowlDC: 'The nicest thing I can say is that it just didn't work out. We had different ideas on what my role should be with the site.' "

 Rothstein went on to quote the text of the letter.

Williams responded in kind, baring no hint of discord. He told Journal-isms:

 "Danielle's gracious comments in her post on Blacksnob.com regarding her departure from Loop21 clearly demonstrate that she is a quality person and a consummate professional. She is and always will be a part of the Loop21 family and alumni."

 

When Seeing 2 Black Men Was Common at the Sun Sentinel

"I should have written this column a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn't in any kind of shape to do it. My colleague and, more importantly, my friend of 30 years, R. Gregory Lewis, had just died, succumbing to complications from prostate cancer," Douglas C. Lyons, senior editorial writer at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, wrote Sunday.

"Greg lived well. He worked, played and loved to the fullest, something that was expressed over and over and over at his funeral, which turned out to be a real celebration of a great man. Everyone should be so fortunate to have the kind of send-off to the next life that Greg received.

"I've got a lot of memories, but one sticks out. Greg and I were 'troublemakers' at the Sun Sentinel. The reason I know this is because we used to hear that a lot from our co-workers whenever we were seen together in the newsroom."

Later came this line: "But that was back in the day when it was commonplace to see two black men together in the Sun Sentinel newsroom. Times have changed."

Sharon Rosenhause, the managing editor who retired in 2009, was a diversity advocate - she chaired the Diversity Committee of the American Society of News Editors.

Editor Earl Maucker told Journal-isms then, "Our commitment is not to go beneath the 30 percent diversity level that we have established. We've made diversity a commitment with or without Sharon."

City Editor Dana Banker referred questions to Sun Sentinel spokesman Kery Knutson, who did not respond.

The furor was swift and unrelenting when Psychology Today published an article on its online site last month arguing that black women are "scientifically" less physically attractive than white, Asian or Native American women.

According to Japanese writer Satoshi Kanazawa, author of the incendiary piece and a self-described "evolutionary psychologist," black men are the most attractive among the males of the species, and black women the least attractive among the females because their purported higher levels of testosterone give them "a more masculine appearance."

Considering that such "findings" are based on a study Kanazawa developed in which people were asked to look at photographs of men and women of different races and rate the attractiveness of each, any results surely have more to do with subjective opinion than scientific research. (The article, by the way, never offered proof of any kind to support that testosterone theory.)

The findings also fly in the face of a another study conducted by Essence magazine in November that examined the psychographic attitudes of African American women themselves when it comes to beauty. Titled "Smart Beauty V," the study is the fifth in a beauty research series Essence is doing, with these findings released at a press breakfast in New York in April. While the research was clearly geared to attract health and beauty advertisers to the magazine, the study's results yielded some larger insights into how black women and women of other races view their beauty.

When asked to rate their own attractiveness, an astounding 84 percent of African American women said, "I think I am a beautiful woman," compared with less than half (41 percent) of women in the general population making such a statement. And 58 percent of African American women said, "I am always proud of my looks," compared with only 22 percent of women in the general market who said they felt that way.

Why the wide gap between how black women say they see themselves compared with how women of other races view themselves when it comes to beauty? First, the study found, black women do not think of themselves as representing one beauty type. In fact, their varied looks reflected in hair, makeup, clothes and attitude indicate several "beauty archetypes" among African American women.

For example, there is the striving, or perhaps already successful corporate black woman whose beauty and fashion look matches that required in her corporate workplace. Her hair is likely to be straightened - perhaps permed or weaved - and her makeup polished and professional. There is the natural black woman, proud of her roots and ethnic identity, the sister who may wear little or no makeup, but wants it to reflect her skin tones, and is likely to wear her hair natural.

The point is, whatever the look, it is one that black women have chosen for themselves because it affirms a positive view of how they see themselves, along with how they want to project their beauty to the world. The Essence research indicated that black women are less likely than others to be swayed by other people's definitions of what constitutes beauty within their own race.

Not surprisingly, the Kanazawa article was quickly pulled from the Psychology Today site once it was made clear that the only standards of beauty black women need to recognize and heed are the ones they set for themselves.

"The magazine posted the story the other day and has now pulled it, saying it will repost it next Wednesday 'To accord with the publishing schedule of Haiti Liberté,' its partner on the piece.

"But you can't stuff the news genie back in the bottle. They already put it in my browser and many others, so I'll summarize what it said (and I'll link to it once The Nation republishes it).

"Two years ago, Haiti unanimously passed a law sharply raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. That doesn't sound like much (and it isn't), but it was two and a half times the then-minimum of 24 cents an hour.

"This infuriated American corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss that pay Haitians slave wages to sew their clothes. They said they would only fork over a seven-cent-an-hour increase, and they got the State Department involved. The U.S. ambassador put pressure on Haiti's president, who duly carved out a $3 a day minimum wage for textile companies (the U.S. minimum wage, which itself is very low, works out to $58 a day)."

Meanwhile, "Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has won the 2011 Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism," Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

"The annual prize is awarded to a journalist 'whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth that exposes establishment propaganda, or "official drivel," as Martha Gellhorn called it.'

" 'WikiLeaks has been portrayed as a phenomenon of the hi-tech age, which it is. But it's much more. Its goal of justice through transparency is in the oldest and finest tradition of journalism,' Martha Gellhorn prize judges said in their citation." 

Exhibit Examines Role of Images in Civil Rights Era

"For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights," a new exhibit sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, is scheduled to open on Friday at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

The exhibit explores the role visual images played in shaping, influencing and transforming the fight for civil rights in the United States. The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County developed the exhibit in partnership with the museum. It is to be on view through Nov. 27, 2012.

In "The Golden Age of the Black Pictorial" section, the authors write, "The pictorial magazines of the Johnson Publishing Company - Ebony, Jet, Tan, and Ebony Jr., among others - were pivotal in promoting affirmative black imagery in popular culture." The visual revolution initiated by publisher John H. Johnson "inspired a host of other, often short-lived black pictorial magazines, including Hue, Our World, Say, Sepia, and The Urbanite. These publications emphasized photo-essays about African American achievement and celebrity but also reported on the harsh reality of racism."

Claim: Media Unwittingly Helped Spare Freedom Riders

The violence that roiled other cities visited by the Freedom Riders in 1961 escaped Hattiesburg, Miss., the Hattiesburg American reported last week, because of the efforts of Bobby Chain, a longtime time civic, political and business force in the community who kept his role secret for 50 years - and who used members of the visiting national news media to learn the Freedom Riders' activities.

Chain's recollection was challenged in a letter to the editor by sociologist Joyce Ladner, who grew up in the area and was a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC.

The civic leaders Chain had gathered "met every morning at 7 o'clock to plan for the day's events," Chain said in the story. "The places where we knew these people would go, we visited privately with (the owners/managers/proprietors), whichever one of us could best talk with them. We said, 'Now look, if (Freedom Riders) come talk to you, you be nice to them and no problems.'

"We got the bus stations to take down the 'white only' signs. We got the right people to see to that, too. This group we had, these were powerful men."

The story continued, ". . . Chain said the national media had come to Hattiesburg, expecting to see and write about angry encounters and violent confrontations.

" 'All the news people kind of gathered up together at night to eat dinner and talk about what was going on,' Chain said. 'I was single at the time, and I got invited to join them and I'd buy them dinner sometime. Whiskey was not legal, and I did not drink, but I could go to Bogalusa or somewhere to get them some.

" 'But they would talk about what the Freedom Riders were going to do the next day. They were all over that, trying to get a story. When at dinner, they would tell me, 'We're about to die here. We can't get anything to write about.'

'Those contacts proved invaluable to planning future events and how to handle them, Chain said."

Ladner wrote in her letter, "I grew up in Palmers Crossing and was active in the civil rights movement. First, Hattiesburg was not a target of the Freedom Riders and I am not aware that any Riders came to Hattiesburg to test the segregated facilities.

"Second, I recall that the bus station was segregated throughout 1961 and the 'Whites Only' and 'Negro Only' signs were still up. When were they taken down? I rode the segregated Trailways buses to college in Jackson from 1960 until the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered that the signs be removed.

"What really bothers me about Bobby Chain's comments is that he failed to mention the racial oppression suffered by blacks in Hattiesburg during the time his group allegedly helped to stave off a possible confrontation. . . ."

Short Takes

* "Univision has named Pamela Silva Conde as co-anchor of 'Primer Impacto' ('First Impact')," Philiana Ng reported for the Hollywood Reporter on Friday. Conde is married to Univision Networks president Cesar Conde. "Emmy-winning journalist Silva Conde will join the news magazine as host and an interviewer beginning Tuesday, July 5. . . . 'Primer Impacto' airs Mondays through Sundays at 5 p.m. ET/PT."

* "Twice in the last two weeks has Time magazine devoted a page to Mark Halperin's oddsmaking on who will be the Republican nominee - the May 23 issue (page 35) and the June 6 issue (page 16). Twice, there's been no mention of Herman Cain. The GOP cast of contenders is lily-white," Tim Graham wrote Friday for the right -wing Newsbusters.org. Time spokesman Daniel Kile told Journal-isms, "TIME has been covering Herman Cain's candidacy since the beginning of the year - on TIME.com and on Mark Halperin's political tip sheet, The Page - and will continue to going forward. Not every candidate will be included in these odds every time; for example, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum were not included in the first set of odds."

* Sonya McNair has been promoted to senior vice president, communications, CBS News, the network announced on Monday. "As Senior Vice President of CBS News Communications, McNair will continue to oversee all media and talent relations, as well as public affairs for CBS News, including strategic planning, day-to-day publicity, and internal and external communications. She will also provide oversight of communications for CBS Radio News, CBSNews.com and the CBS News Polling & Survey Unit."

* A Page One centerpiece story about African American soldiers from Northeast Ohio who helped win the Civil War, a story that included recent efforts to have the soldiers' long-excluded names added to the honor list on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Cleveland's Public Square, won praise Sunday from Ted Diadiun, public editor of the Plain Dealer. Diadiun wrote about the importance of covering Memorial Day properly.

* "Wendell Smith is not a well-known name in the Civil Rights Movement," Andrew Schall wrote Sunday for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He did not possess the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. or the legal acumen of Thurgood Marshall. He was not among the front-and-center leaders laying the foundation for change in a society that was rampant with racism. Wendell Smith's contribution was his journalistic skill. He used his writing to make it possible for Jackie Robinson to join the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the first black player in Major League Baseball."

* In New York, "WXTV Univision 41, the New York area's premier Spanish-language television station, announced today that award-winning journalist Enrique Teuteló has joined the news team as anchor of 'Noticias Univision 41 Al Despertar' (Univision 41 News at Dawn)," Univision announced on Monday. "Teuteló joins anchor Merijoel Durán and reporter Sandra O'Neill on 'Al Despertar' beginning Monday, June 27, 2011. The morning news program airs weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. on WXTV Univision 41, and from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on WFUT/WFTY TeleFutura 67/68."

* "Yesterday, the journalistic non-profit Spot.us and La Opinión convened a roundtable of journalists, community leaders, non-profit workers, police and local governmental officials to talk about the state of our communities in Los Angeles and how journalists can better cover them," Matthew Fleischer wrote Thursday for KCET television in Los Angeles. "A lot was discussed, to be sure, but perhaps most interesting for me was listening to the people journalists write about in their stories tell us what they expect of the media and how we can better cover the city. Frank Kwan, the L.A. County Office of Education's director of communications, said he wanted to see more journalists 'stay with a story. Don't just publish a quick pop. Keep talking to us and follow up three months or so down the road.' Kwan is a former education beat reporter, so he knows what he's talking about."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.