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Five black sports journalists were laid off at USA Today on Wednesday, staffers told Journal-isms.

They are: G.E. Branch, assignment editor; J. Michael Falgoust, NBA reporter; Gene Farris, web and video editor; Gary Graves, motor sports reporter; and Dixie Vereen, design editor.

Branch was a USA Today founder, joining the operation in 1982. He worked there until 2004, returning full time in September. He started as a copy editor but worked the majority of his time there as an assignment editor. Farris started at USA Today in 2005, arriving from the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal as international edition sports editor. Graves has been an NFL writer at the paper since 1997 and covered motorsports since 2001. Falgoust has been an assignment editor since 2000 and an NBA writer since 2010.

Eric Fisher and John Ourand of Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reported:

"Company officials declined to say how many staffers overall were affected in the move. But ultimately, the company's sports editorial staff is expected to post a net increase, particularly with the arrival later this year of its joint venture with MLBAM," the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball.

" 'This process was about redefining and reimagining Sports and the roles within it to create a center of excellence and build a great sports franchise,' said USA Today Sports Media Group President Tom Beusse. 'With this new structure, we are now well-positioned to operate in a 24-7 digital environment. This is a major step forward.' "

The presidential contest for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has quickly turned into a battle of dueling videos and questions about the character of the only candidate — and the filing deadline isn't until Tuesday.

Rafael Olmeda, NAHJ president from 2006 to 2008, told Journal-isms that he had watched NAHJ elections since 1998 and that "none of those races ever approached this kind of negativity that we've already seen in this race, with only one declared candidate."

The immediate past president, O. Ricardo Pimentel, said by email of past elections, "Mostly, they've been uncontested, so absent this kind of tenor. But I don't recall the contested ones being uncivil."

The declared candidate is Russell Contreras, an Associated Press reporter who is NAHJ's chief financial officer and vice president for print. On May 16, Contreras posted a video declaring his candidacy. "For four generations you have taught me the meaning of family," a voice intones to musical accompaniment and family photographs.

The photos include a sign reading, "We serve White's only no Spanish or Mexicans," and a concluding line, "Our story will not be erased." In the video, Contreras says he is part of the team that "helped save NAHJ."

The same day, an anonymous poster published a YouTube video that began in the same way as Contreras' video. But the opening line, "Dear Family, I know we've been apart," is interrupted by a voice that says, "apart because Russell Contreras disrespects members." It continues, "Russell doesn't care if you're disrespected. . . . It's Russell's way or no way. That is not leadership. That is not NAHJ. Anyone but Russell. Anyone!"

When Hugo Balta posted that counter-video on Latino Multimedia Communicators, the Facebook page he moderates, it prompted 41 responses. Balta, a coordinating producer at ESPN, lost the NAHJ presidency to Michele Salcedo by 13 votes two years ago, 137 to 124.

In March, he dressed down Contreras on NAHJ's Facebook page after Contreras mentioned on that page "how frustrating it is when one member, who didn't pay her dues for most of the year but attended the NAHJ convention for free, gripes that we should have more money for Student Projects," and disparaged others.

Balta wrote, "Don't you ever think you can disrespect me or any other member of NAHJ again." He said he did not create any videos.

In the Facebook discussion of the videos, Suzanne Gamboa, an Associated Press writer, responded, "I voted for Hugo Balta on a slate that included Russell Contreras in the last NAHJ election. Despite that, soon after Michele took charge I began to see results from her leadership to make me confident that my hard earned money was not going to waste.

"Russell's support of her also helped build my confidence in NAHJ. Others do not agree with me and that is their right. It's too bad however that a person hiding behind anonymity has decided to resort to character assassination through the video Hugo has posted. . . . "

Balta replied, ". . . I agree with you — I wish the producer of this video would come forward — only because I would want to congratulate him/her for speaking out. The conversation has been one sided. And those who have attempted to speak up have been crushed down by Contreras and other senior leaders at NAHJ. If this video needs a face, then I lend it mine (because I agree with it. . . .)"

Another member, Sarykarmen Maldonado, wrote, ". . . I was part of the member group asking Mr. Contreras for solutions and I was willing to help out even when he shut a group of us down. However, this is just not right...we are not here to crush each other when at the end of the day we are the minorities and we need our group to stay strong."

Sam Diaz, a former board member, wrote, "The video was an attack ad, plain and simple. Some people may choose to vote for an 'Anyone but...' candidate and others may choose to vote on personality and likability, but I would hope that we would take time to weigh the issues that are important instead of voting for the most likable candidate. Whether it's an 'Anyone but Obama' or 'Anyone but Russ,' it's a silly way to cast a vote."

Yvonne Latty, a professor at New York University, wrote, ". . . I wish the Yvonne Lattyperson who produced the video would come forward as well since I am being accused of producing it. The results have a been a group of us, many longtime and lifetime members have been 'blocked' by Russ on FB meaning we can not read his [posts] on the NAHJ pages, our only source for NAHJ news. So we have been blacklisted. I am not a coward and if I would have produced it I would have put my name on it, but I had moved on from NAHJ [after] the insults I was subjected to on the strategy group and have focused all my attention on my family and my work.

"I told Russ I was sorry about the video and I meant it. It is hurtful. Even though I was insulted by him many times I believe in forgiveness and life is too short to hold grudges. But his response to this video was to lump anyone who ever asked a question he didn't like into a blacklist and that includes the UNITY president. . . ."

Joanna Hernandez, an NAHJ member and president of Unity Journalists, removed Contreras from the Unity Facebook page after he referred to this columnist as "the hack."

"Last month, I was alerted that Russell Contreras made a few inappropriate comments on the UNITY Facebook page, and he was removed pending a discussion that has yet to take place," Hernandez told Journal-isms by email Wednesday. "It is UNITY's policy to keep discussions on the page civil and positive. I reached out to Contreras on April 20th to discuss the comments because he is an important voice in diversity discussions as a leader on the NAHJ board. I was hoping to quickly reinstate him, but as of yet, he has . . . been unavailable to discuss the matter."

On Sunday, a second anonymously authored video was posted on YouTube, taking aim at what Contreras considers his signature accomplishment: helping to return NAHJ's finances to the black.

This video opened with a headshot of Contreras behind these words: "IT DOES TAKE A MIRACLE to believe russell." The video cited the NAHJ staff layoffs, charging that the group actually owes the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, site of its last convention, $70,000 and alleging that some sponsors have deserted the organization.

On Tuesday, Contreras replied under the YouTube video, "You are free to say whatever you'd like, but your claim about the $70K is false. The charge is in dispute with Disney, but we still listed it as an expense in the 2011 budget nonetheless. So the $111K surplus is accurate and that surplus is what NAHJ will be reporting on 990s tax forms. The surplus may even be higher depending on the outcome of the disputed bill. Thank you for not stealing my family? and wedding photos this time," a reference to the first counter-video.

Asked Wednesday if she wanted to make any observations about the tenor of the campaign, including the YouTube videos, Salcedo said by email:

"The NAHJ board has worked very hard to bring the organization into the black, so we can continue to provide programming and opportunities for its members. We have a lot of talent that's stepped forward to lead this organization, and I'm confident members will elect a board that will continue to strengthen the organization and move it forward."

Contreras, asked whether he would like to add to his comment under the YouTube video, sent this statement by email:

"My record on the NAHJ board speaks for itself. As financial officer, I have attended every board meeting and I created a painful, but needed austerity budget that took NAHJ from $350,000 in the red to a $111,000Russell Contreras surplus in 2011. The budget was given the go ahead by our financial advisory committee made up of one academic and three media executives and was approved unanimously by the board 11-0. Our 2012 budget also projects similar positive numbers if we continue to hold our spending and reach our fundraising benchmarks.

"This is why we have named our slate HalftimeinNAHJ. I and the other candidates on the slate believe the current board has set us in the right direction but there is still a long way to go to restoring NAHJ's fiscal health.

"On blocking people:

"I have no desire to personally engage with a handful of members who continue to attack me and other NAHJ leaders on social media. Such attacks only serve to damage NAHJ's reputation with sponsors. Unfortunately blocking them from my personal pages prevents them from seeing my posts on any NAHJ Facebook pages.

"I will be answering questions during the campaign through the official tumblr site of the HalftimeinNAHJ slate (halftimeinnahj.tumblr.com), which can be accessed by everyone as a public page and in other formats."

"On videos:

"As for the videos, I'm surprised any self-respecting journalist would publicize or give any credence to something that anonymously engages in character assassination and abuses personal information. That said, if elected president, I will welcome criticism and opposite points of view presented in an adult and civilized manner and look forward to learning from those who see things differently whose aim is putting more Latinos in newsrooms and improving coverage of the Latino community.

"Here's a statement from Suzanne Gamboa, HalftimeInNAHJ campaign manager and my mentor.

"I support Russell wholeheartedly in his campaign despite this unfortunate attack against him. I met Russell at an NAHJ event many years ago and gave him advice he sought on what he needed to do to get into journalism and reach his goal. He has never forgotten that another journalist of color helped him get where he wanted to go and has selflessly given his time and advice to other journalists of color.

"In addition to sharing his tricks of the trade — even multimedia tips to veteran journalists — he posts every job opportunity and fellowship he learns of and connects unemployed journalists or those seeking other work to his own network of contacts."

"The attacks on Russell are only one side of the story. Those who have made an issue of how he has treated them have not disclosed how they behaved."

Michael Days is returning as editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, publisher Bob Hall announced Wednesday, as editor Larry Platt announced 16 months into the job that he is stepping down and would become a columnist.

"I think Michael is a fantastic editor," Hall told Journal-isms by telephone. "He has a good knowledge about Philadelphia. His tenure doing the Daily News had a lot of success." Since Platt was stepping down, Hall said he decided "Michael would be the perfect choice." 

Hall said he and Days agreed that the Daily News should be "livelier and more exciting, really hit some hard stories and be a very good tabloid for this area."

Days told the Daily News staff, "It's good to be back. This is home. This is family."

Will Bunch reported for the Daily News that staffers burst into spontaneous applause when Hall announced that Days would be returning to the tabloid. "Days assured the newsroom that his goal was [to] re-energize the spunky urban paper that has won three [Pulitzer] Prizes, including one for investigative reporting when Days ran the paper in 2010," Bunch wrote.

Wendy Ruderman, co-author of a series that won the Pulitzer under Days in 2010, left for the New York Times this month. "I hate to say it, but if people at the Daily News aren't looking, they should be," Ruderman told Gail Shister for Philadelphia Magazine. "If they’re not, it's kind of stupid … This place is rudderless."

In January 2011, Days moved from the tabloid Daily News to the larger Philadelphia Inquirer broadsheet as managing editor. At the time, Stan Wischnowski was editor. Former editor William K. Marimow returned to the paper as editor on May 1, and announced two days later that Days' role would change.

"Effective today, Michael Days will take a lead role in coordinating our multimedia content at all levels," said a memo from Marimow and Wischnowski.

"This includes expanding our social media reach, working closely with Sam Wood," social media editor. Days, who is managing editor, "will also oversee the online breaking news desk, improve our network of bloggers, work . . . on the Inquirer iPad app, and ensure that our investigative and enterprise projects include strong audio and video components. Mike will continue to oversee the photo department and work with the metro team. At the same time, Mike Leary will become deputy managing editor for Metro; he will continue to supervise our investigative projects. As deputy managing editor, Mike will oversee the city desk, Jersey desk, the Pennsylvania suburban and political desk."

Platt told staffers of his plans in an email on Wednesday.

"The Larry Platt era at the Daily News is over 16 months after it started," Bunch wrote under the headline, "WTF?: Platt resigns, Days back at Daily News."

"The editor who redubbed Philadelphia's tabloid as 'The People's Paper' and urged a new brand of sharp and sometimes opinionated journalism told staffers this afternoon in an email that he's stepping down, in part to finish work on a book about ageless pitching wonder Jamie Moyer. He says he'll also continue to write a column — not for the Daily News or [SportsWeek] but for the Inquirer.

"The headline of this blog post is a fond tribute to one of Platt's all-time favorite front-page headlines, as noted in his going-away email, which is reprinted below:

" 'I let Bob Hall know this week that I wouldn't be renewing my contract as editor of the Daily News. As you know, I have what has evolved into a big book due in a few months that I'm woefully behind on and I desperately need to focus on that. We started talking about other ways that I can remain part of the PMN family, and Bill Marimow graciously offered to have me pen a regular column in the Inquirer going forward.

" 'As some of you know, I never looked at this gig as a long-term play for me. I have long loved the Daily News, and I was jazzed by the challenge of being a change-agent, of remaking the publication that I grew up poring over. And, boy, did we embark on some change: a redesign, a new focus for both news and features, an entirely new product, SportsWeek, a new content management system. It often feels like the last year and a half has been nothing but change, some of them wrenching. . . .' "

" 'From "WTF?" and "Worst. Weekend. Ever" to “We Are Nitt-Wits” and "Sucking On The Public Tweet", we set the agenda for how Philly would talk about what it talks about. . . . ' "

Days wrote to the Inquirer staff:

"While I am quite happy to be returning to my post as editor of the Daily News, I would be remiss if I did not say this: I have thoroughly enjoyed my 15 months at the Inquirer, even those most challenging days when heart-breaking personnel decisions had to be made while still maintaining a consistently high level of journalism.

"That's because the Inquirer is full of hard-working, creative folk who are committed to quality journalism, regardless of the challenges. I got to see that very much up close, and I have appreciated the opportunity. I, too, am grateful for the trust that you have placed in me, especially Stan, and will forever cherish my time as the Inquirer's Managing Editor.

"Still, I relish the call to return to my roots, to go home, and feel blessed to have been entrusted with leading again the Daily News team. I have no doubt that we will all succeed in aggressively developing strategies that showcase our strong content across both print and digital platforms, and increase our share of paying readers. . . ."

Days' departure from the Inquirer leaves only two African Americans in high-ranking positions at the Inquirer: Editorial Page Editor Harold Jackson and Sandra Clark, deputy managing editor for arts, features and entertainment.

"The Best Practices Award is given to a news organization for exemplary work in covering issues of great significance to the black community or the African Diaspora," the group said. " '[Find] Our Missing' fits the bill.

"This series counters the media's tendency to not focus on missing people of color. Local outlets in these cases usually make a good effort to publicize these stories, but the cases rarely rise to the level of national media attention. 'Find Our Missing' allows us do something about that," said NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. in a news release. "TV One deserves this recognition for making sure these stories get told."

Jacqueline Trescott, a reporter in Washington for 42 years and for more than three decades at the Washington Post, is leaving the newspaper at the end of June, she told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Trescott was an active member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in the 1970s and 1980s. She served as director of the Summer Program for Minority Journalists in 1982 and 1984, and worked several summers as an instructor.

Trescott's departure — she took a buyout in 2006 but remained at the paper onJacqueline Trescott a contract basis — adds to the disproportionate number of journalists of color leaving the Post this year after accepting buyout offers.

"It has been a rewarding career going from typewriters to computers to blogs and tweets," Trescott said, "but no matter what the format or platform, the coverage of celebrities, writers, entertainers, exhibitions and a broad line-up of talented and interesting people behind the scenes in museums and arts agencies, has been unsurpassed fuel for a daily reporter."

For the last 20 years, Trescott has covered the arts news beat at the Post, which includes the Smithsonian museums, the Kennedy Center and the National Gallery of Art, as well as the federal cultural agencies and oversight committees on Capitol Hill. The coverage has ranged from breaking news to features to investigative reports. She, along with Post reporter James V. Grimaldi, was a finalist in the Freedom of Information Act Award category of the Investigative Reporters and Editors contest in 2009 for a series of stories on the Smithsonian Institution. Grimaldi recently took a buyout and moved to the Wall Street Journal.

Trescott said she plans to stay in the Washington area.

"The donation is designated to cover the costs of hiring reporters to cover Southern California communities, prisons, immigration, as well as to post a correspondent in Brazil.

". . . The collapse of the business model for media makes such foundation support incredibly important to sustaining quality coverage. But the trend also is a cause of concern.

"Even as someone who knows the work of these foundations and some of their staff, I have very little sense of how these organizations work, how they set their agendas, who their [decision makers] are, how they exercise power, how they interact and make deals with powerful officials and institutions.

"The public knows even less than I do. That's because California media don't cover foundations and their work routinely, [aggressively] and critically. . . . "

Davan Maharaj, editor of the Times, did not respond to a request for comment.

"HLN is launching a new late afternoon/early evening program called 'Evening Express,' " Alex Weprin reported Wednesday for TVNewser. "As the name suggests, the format is based on the channel's successful morning program, 'Morning Express with Robin Meade.'

Two of the three on-air principals are black. Smith, a sports and entertainment lawyer with a degree from Columbia Law School, was a familiar HLN on-air presence in 2011 as a result of his reporting during the Casey Anthony and Conrad Murray trials. Sesay is an anchor for CNN International, hosting the daily news program "CNN NewsCenter" and weekly program "BackStory," and serving as the nightly "360 Bulletin" correspondent on "Anderson Cooper 360°".

Scot Safon, who heads HLN and is executive vice president of CNN Worldwide, was last in this column in September after he participated in a conference on diversity hosted by the American Society of News Editors. "The idea of diversity driving innovation is really, really important," Safon said.

"Hal Jackson, who once had to sneak in through the back door of radio stations and over 75 years made himself into one of the most dignified and important men in black radio history, died Wednesday. He was 96," David Hinckley reported for the Daily News in New York. "The cause of death was not immediately announced. While he had recently been ill, he had remained on the air at WBLS (107.5 FM) doing his 'Sunday Classics' show until a few weeks ago."

"The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which distinguished itself amid great adversity during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, is about to enact large staff cuts and may cut back its daily print publishing schedule, according to two employees with knowledge of the plans," David Carr reported Wednesday for the New York Times. [On Thursday, the Times-Picayune confirmed that a new company, "NOLA Media Group will significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week."]

"It’s been a while since all heck broke loose in Bell, a working-class, Latino-majority city in southeast Los Angeles County," Leslie Berestein Rojas wrote Tuesday for Multi-American. "In 2010, eight city officials that included the mayor and former city manager were arrested and charged with corruption. . . . The Spanish-language news website LatinoCalifornia.com, staffed by several Spanish-language media veterans, is taking a step back in time and launching a local newspaper — yes, a print newspaper — that it says is inspired by the corruption scandal."

"In a mix of professional development and outreach, top Latina bloggers were invited to the White House for an initiative by Latinos in Social Media, a nonprofit which is the largest group for professional Hispanics engaged in social media," Adrian Carrasquillo wrote Monday for NBC Latino.

"The Huffington Post's web television network is coming together," Alex Weprin reported for TVNewser. "Capital New York's Joe Pompeo has details about the service, which is now called 'HuffPost Live,' rather than the more tumescent 'Huffington Post Streaming Network,' as it was originally called. The service is apparently on track for a July launch."

"CNN has not reacted much to bad ratings before, so another week of distressed numbers may not faze its management," Bill Carter wrote Tuesday for the New York Times. "But the figures for last week were truly bad, deeply bad — the worst for the news network in 20 years. CNN averaged just 395,000 viewers in prime time for the week of May 14, a figure lower than any week of prime-time programming on the network since September 1991."

"Israeli authorities should release the director of a new Palestinian satellite broadcaster who has been detained since Thursday," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday. "Israeli soldiers arrested Bahaa Khairi Moussa, the general director of the Palestine Prisoner Channel, a news broadcaster based in the West Bank, at his home in the city of Jenin, and confiscated the station's equipment, according to news reports." The channel, which began broadcasting a month ago, features news coverage including reports and interviews with Palestinian prisoners on their status and condition in Israeli jails.

Although Gloria Campos has renewed her contract at Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA-8 until the end of February 2014, the deal includes a pay cut and reduced working hours, Veronica Villafañe reported Tuesday for her Media Moves site.

Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas will be awarded this year's Percy Qoboza Award, the National Association of Black Journalists said Tuesday. "For more than a decade, the deputy editor of The New Crusading Guide has defied the trend of compliance and apathy among journalists in Ghana by conducting hidden-camera investigations, resulting in legal and criminal action against police, health officials, human traffickers and gangsters. One of his investigations led to the freedom of 17 Chinese sex workers in West Africa."

"Longtime Sacramento television personality Sharon Ito has announced she is stepping away from News10," Ed Fletcher reported Tuesday for the Sacramento Bee. "Her last day will be Friday. A Sacramento native, Ito has been at News10 for 20 years and in the news business for 30. She began her second stint at the station in 2006. Recently she has been hosting the online telecast."

"Gwen Ifill was presented with the eighth-annual 'Be More' Award from PBS this week, a prize celebrating individuals in public television who 'embody the spirit of helping Americans to discover more.'" Merrill Knox reported Saturday for TVNewser.

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