Al Neuharth, Diversity Champion, Dies at 89

Allen H. Neuharth (USA Today TV)
Allen H. Neuharth (USA Today TV)

Allen H. Neuharth, who led the newspaper industry in championing diversity and made it possible for Robert C. Maynard to become the first African American publisher of a mainstream newspaper, died Friday at his home in Cocoa Beach, Fla. He was 89.


An obituary by Herbert Buchsbaum of the New York Times described Neuharth as "the brash and blustery media mogul who built the Gannett Company into a communications Leviathan and created USA Today, for years America's best-selling newspaper" and noted, "In an industry long dominated by white men, Mr. Neuharth led the way in the hiring and promotion of women and minorities, tying compensation to hiring goals.

"By 1988 the proportion of minorities in Gannett newsrooms was 47 percent higher than the national average. Women accounted for nearly 40 percent of the company's managers, professionals, technicians and sales agents and an unheard-of quarter of its newspaper publishers."

A February 1992 article in  Black Enterprise magazine listing the "25 Best Places for Blacks to Work" said of Gannett, "total minority employment has progressed from 12 percent to 21 percent since 1980."

Neuharth even believed that black Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke, who forced the Post to return a 1981 Pulitzer Prize when it was disclosed that Cooke had fabricated her winning story in that highly competitive newsroom, deserved a second chance. However, the Gannett paper Neuharth had in mind for Cooke, who left the Post in disgrace, reportedly balked at the idea.

Neuharth's support for diversity "went from supporting individuals within the company to the Oakland Tribune, in particular when it mattered most," Dori J. Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said by telephone.

Michael Liedtke wrote in the October 1991 edition of American Journalism Review:

"Then-media tycoon Al Neuharth stood beside newspaper publisher Bob Maynard in mid-August to celebrate the salvation of the long-suffering Oakland Tribune, the two men hoped for a better ending than the first time they'd joined forces to rescue the newspaper.


"That was 1979, when the hard-driving Neuharth was chief executive officer of the ever-expanding Gannett Company. The newspaper firm had just purchased the Tribune and hired Maynard to edit it. Four years later, Maynard bought the paper from Gannett in one of the first leveraged buyouts of the 1980s and he and Neuharth parted ways.

"Now, together again, the duo takes a stab at a happier course. The plot remains the same — Neuharth provides the deep pockets, Maynard the journalistic savvy and community connections — and the flailing newspaper gets a handhold.


"But the story may twist with the allegiance of Neuharth, the self-professed 'S.O.B.' who two years ago retired from Gannett to become chairman of the nonprofit Freedom Forum. The Forum, at Neuharth's urging, committed $7.5 million of its $670 million endowment to save Oakland's paper.

"What remains unclear is what impelled Neuharth back into the Oakland game. Is he — as he and Maynard maintain — merely the generous bystander with nothing more on his agenda than the preservation of a 117-year-old paper? Or does he see the Tribune rescue as a chance to tweak noses at the Arlington, Virginia, offices of his former employer, which wound up swallowing most of the Tribune 's $31.5 million debt?


"Neuharth insists the reports of a feud are overblown. 'All the speculation that we are trying to poke each other in the eyes is not true,' he says. 'It didn't matter to me whether the Tribune's major creditor was Gannett or Joe Blow…

" 'It's really quite simple,' he says. 'We believe in the Maynards and we believe in the staff of the Oakland Tribune.' . . . "


The Loma Prieta earthquake, coverage of which won the Tribune a Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography in 1990, combined with a national recession and a troubled city economy to force Bob and Nancy Maynard to sell the Tribune in 1992. The pair had owned the paper for 10 years.

David Honig, president of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council, told Journal-isms by email, "I'm originally from Rochester, NY. Gannett was based there in the 1970s, when I got to know Al Neuharth.  I found him to be gracious, collaborative and insightful. As his obit in USA Today and his autobiography made clear, sometimes Al was not a very nice person.  Al had little charm and no sartorial taste.  But Al was way, way ahead of his peers when it came to diversity.


"Al, Doug McCorkindale, and I put together Gannett's 1979 'Partners in Progress' program – the first modern voluntary affirmative action program in journalism.  It was highly effective because Al, with his can-do spirit and low tolerance for excuses, commanded his publishers and TV station general managers to observe it and exceed its goals and targets. Their compensation and bonuses depended on it.

"Lots of people who Al treated poorly are probably saying (to themselves) 'finally the bastard is dead.'  But I will miss him."


Neuharth extended his commitment to diversity to his personal life. In 2010, Anne Straub wrote for Space Coast Medicine, Neuharth was father of six children with his third wife, Cocoa Beach chiropractor Rachel Fornes. All were adopted at birth and come from diverse backgrounds. Neuharth also had two grown children.

25 Years Ago, It Was "the Place to Be": USA Today Had Reputation as Diversity Leader (Sept. 12, 2007)


David Colton and Rick Hampson, USA Today: USA TODAY founder Al Neuharth dies at 89

Alex S. Jones, New York Times: Cash and Debt Concessions Save Oakland Tribune (Aug. 15, 1991) 


Native American Journalists Association: NAJA statement on passing of USA Today founder Al Neuharth

Rosamunda Neuharth-Ozgo, Accuracy In Media: My Father Al Neuharth and Media Hypocrisy (April 27, 2009) 


New York Times: Gannett Stressing Minority Groups (1988)

Mike Schneider, Associated Press: USA Today founder Neuharth dies in Florida at 89


CNN's John King Says, "What I Am Not Is Racist"

"CNN's John King has taken to Twitter to further explain his erroneous report of an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing," Erik Hayden wrote Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter.


King's defense of his report that law enforcement officials had identified "a dark-skinned male" as the suspect came a day before the Boston area was placed on lockdown as authorities sought — and eventually captured — a suspect who was not dark-skinned, but in fact was a native of the Russian republic of Chechnya.

" 'Source of that description was a senior government official. And I asked, are you sure? But I'm responsible. What I am not is racist,' the anchor wrote Thursday," Hayden reported.


Hayden's story continued, "The anchor's comments received widespread criticism on social media. Among many others, the NAACP, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and MSNBC's Al Sharpton took issue with King's report.

" 'The fact that this information was false is only part of the problem,' said NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous in a statement Thursday. 'Our concern is that CNN used an overly broad, unhelpful and potentially racially inflammatory categorization to describe the potential suspect. History teaches us that too often people of color are unfairly targeted in the aftermath of acts of terrorism.' "


CNN has not commented on King's error, leaving it to King to respond. But King has not addressed the larger implications of identifying a suspect as "dark-skinned."

"People are less tolerant are less tolerant when mistakes aren’t acknowledged or the on-air speculation veers into ethnic or racial stereotypes, as the discussion of 'dark-skinned' or alleged Muslim suspects did this week, says Emily Bell, a journalism professor at Columbia University," Paul Farhi reported for Saturday's Washington Post.


" 'You're inviting a very visceral reaction when you wander into that territory,' she says. 'The unintended consequence is that it cast instant suspicion on a lot of innocent people and adds very little' to the public understanding of the story."

On the suspense-filled day after King's tweet of explanation, "In the waning moments of daylight, police descended Friday on a shrouded boat in a Watertown backyard to capture the suspected terrorist who had eluded their enormous dragnet for a tumultuous day, ending a dark week in Boston that began with the bombing of the world’s most prestigious road race," Mark Arsenault reported for the Boston Globe.


"The arrest of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of Cambridge ended an unprecedented daylong siege of Greater Boston, after a frantic night of violence that left one MIT police officer dead, an MBTA Transit Police officer wounded, and an embattled public — rattled again by the touch of terrorism — huddled inside homes.

"Tsarnaev’s elder brother and alleged accomplice — 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the second suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon attack — was pronounced dead early Friday morning at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, after suffering shrapnel and bullet wounds in a gunfight with police. . . ."


Nearly all of the news networks went live to the scene as the suspect was captured and news conferences were held. Univision and Telemundo continued to show telenovelas, and Black Entertainment Television and TV One likewise continued with their regular programming.

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times: For Muslims, bad memories and new worries

Paul Cheung, Asian American Journalists Association: AAJA Urges Vigilance in Reporting on Boston Bombing Suspects


Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Why did media make so many mistaken assumptions about Boston Marathon bombers' race?

FBI "Wanted" poster

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post: Lost in Boston's Carnage… (video)

Jennifer Ludden, NPR: Muslims Fear Backlash After Suspects' Faith Revealed (April 20)


Michael E. Ross, the Root: Describing a Suspect: A Few Tips for Mr. King

Gerry Shih, Reuters: Media, old and new, takes heat for Boston coverage (April 20)


Scott Simon and David Folkenflik, "Weekend Edition Saturday," NPR: Lessons Learned From The Media's Coverage Of Boston Bombing (April 20)

Adrian Walker, Boston Globe: The reckoning begins in Ashmont

Adrian Walker, Boston Globe: Three secular ministers preach healing

Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Across America, a Week of Chaos, Horror — and Hope (April 20)


Tim Wise blog: Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness (April 16)

David Zurawik, Daily Download: Boston Coverage: Diane Sawyer Shines, CNN Struggles, Geraldo Rivera Sinks (April 20)


Firm Says Don't Judge Magazine Health by Print-Ad Declines

Figures showing a decline in advertising dollars for print magazines don't tell the whole story, according to the agency that prepares those figures for the magazine industry.


In fact, "Consumer Magazines are very powerful brands and are finding audiences and advertising through their brand extensions digitally via web, tablet, and mobile," Suzie Ross of Kantar Media messaged Journal-isms on Thursday.

"It's actually an exciting time for magazines as they reinvent themselves and evolve based on consumer interests/needs/behavior."


Ross, vice president for strategic partnerships and industry relations, was commenting on a report this month from the Publishers Information Bureau comparing advertising dollars and advertising pages for the first quarter of 2013 with figures for the previous year.

Journal-isms reported April 10 that Black Enterprise magazine sustained a 35.4 percent decline in advertising dollars and a 34 percent hit in advertising pages, that Jet magazine dropped 31.7 percent in advertising dollars compared with the same period a year before and that People en Español rose by 20.8 percent in ad dollars and 14 percent in ad pages.


Overall, "Consumer magazines' advertising woes continued in the first quarter of 2013, with ad pages slipping 4.8 percent versus the year-ago period on declines in nine out of the 12 top categories, according to numbers released today by MPA—The Association of Magazine Media," Emma Bazilian reported April 8 for Adweek.

Ross was asked to clarify the figures after Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Jet, maintained that the decline in advertising dollars for the pocket-sized magazine should actually be much lower — 13.52 percent instead of 31.7 percent.


"There is nothing inaccurate in your column," Ross wrote. "The reported decline was correct, as was the comment about Jet having [fewer] issues in 2013 versus 2012.

"However, I should note that the PIB Press report you referenced does not reflect the concept of 'same store sales' and we provide our clients with information (such as number of issues published by publishers from one year to the next in a given period) that allows them to look deeper into the data and analyze it as they wish. This is not to say that PIB reporting is inaccurate — but you were wise to report the mistakes that many make when they use this data by quoting Mr. Barr," referring to Stephen Gregory Barr, Johnson Publishing senior vice president and group publisher. "The PIB reports that you referenced report . . . organic activity in a given time period — and provide year-over-year comparison so that the general idea of gains and losses is available.


"The Jet issue of 4/8 was not included in the Jan-Mar data because its an April issue and will appear in April's data (PIB data does not report by On Sale Date, but by Issue Date).

"What I would like to add is that declines in print really don't . . . tell the whole story and you are doing a disservice to the industry by highlighting print declines. Consumer Magazines are very powerful brands and are finding audiences and advertising through their brand extensions digitally via web, tablet, and mobile. It's actually an exciting time for magazines as they reinvent themselves and evolve based on consumer interests/needs/behavior. Kantar Media, the company that collects and reports PIB data, is actually working with the MPA [Association of Magazine Media] and PIB to capture the full magazine media footprint from an advertising perspective which currently includes both web and tablet. So stay tuned."


"People Behaving Badly" — Toward the Photographer

In the Bay Area, "KRON 4 reporter Stanley Roberts was attacked while he was attempting to film his 'People Behaving Badly' segment in Berkeley Thursday afternoon when his subjects took exception, resulting in a sprained back," Katie Nelson reported Thursday for the Oakland Tribune.


"Two suspects in the attack were detained and later arrested on suspicion of battery and felony vandalism. They were booked into the Berkeley City Jail, said Officer Jennifer Coats, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department.

"Roberts said he was filming outside of Amoeba Music located at 2455 Telegraph Ave. doing his 'normal schtick' for a segment about how squatters begging for money had become more rampant in the area.


"He said he had filmed three men from a distance at first and then walked up to them to get a closer shot.

"The men, who have not yet been identified by police, told Roberts they did not want to be filmed, but because they were in a public place, Roberts said, he told them he was allowed to do so."


Eventually, there was a scuffle, Nelson reported, during which "Roberts had his press credentials stolen and his $5,000 camera and $1,000 microphone broken before police arrived. . . ."

Preston Davis Dies, First Black President of an ABC Division

"Preston Davis, a pioneering television executive who served as president of broadcast operations and engineering for ABC, died April 15 after an illness, the Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday. He was 63," Mike Barnes reported Wednesday for the Hollywood Reporter.


"In 1993, Robert Iger, then president of the ABC Network Television Group, promoted Davis to lead broadcast operations and engineering, making him the first African-American president of any Capital Cities/ABC division in the history of the media company.

" 'Preston and I started at ABC around the same time,' Iger, now Disney chairman and CEO, said in a statement. 'He was a talented and tenacious leader who earned wide respect for his abilities and was revered for his impeccable integrity. When I had to choose someone to lead BO&E into the future, there was no question Preston was the right person, and he led that team to great achievements for the better part of two decades. Preston was a class act and a great guy who had a tremendous impact on everyone who knew him.' "


The story added, "Davis, who retired from the company in 2011, joined ABC in 1976 as an engineer in Washington, D.C. He moved into various positions of increasing responsibility involving field and studio operations in D.C., Atlanta and New York and was promoted in 1988 to vp television operations for the East Coast, where he directed studio and field operations, electronic newsgathering, telecommunications and the RF operations and engineering group. . . ."

Lynne Duke, 56, Former Washington Post Reporter, Editor

"Lynne Duke, a journalist who brought an emotional clarity to the most trenchant stories, from the crack epidemic that terrorized a Miami housing project once known as 'the Graveyard' to the legacy of apartheid South Africa, died April 19 at her home in Silver Spring," Adam Bernstein reported Friday for the Washington Post. "She was 56.


"The cause was lung cancer, said her husband, Phillip Dixon, a former Washington Post city editor. Ms. Duke worked at The Post from 1987 to 2008, retiring as an editor in the Style section after earlier assignments reporting from Johannesburg and New York.

"Ms. Duke had once aspired to a career in dance and theater, and she brought the expressive qualities of those art forms to her journalism.


"Covering South Africa was a defining experience for Ms. Duke. She first visited for The Post in 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. She returned to Johannesburg in 1994 for the nation's first multi-racial election and stayed on to cover Mandela's presidency. She also jumped around the region for breaking news, including the aftermath of Mobutu Sese Seko's dictatorial rule in what was then Zaire.

"Howard W. French, a former New York Times reporter in Africa and author of 'A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa' (2004), described Ms. Duke as a dogged competitor for whom the experience of working in Africa also provoked deep emotional discovery. . . ."


Jackie Jones, a former Post colleague, told Journal-isms, "Lynne was not warm and fuzzy. There were not a lot of hugs and kisses and stuff that lots of women friends do with each other, but if you wanted a frank opinion, a clear appraisal or someone who would listen and reserve judgment — until you stopped talking — Lynne was the one to call. . . "

Soul of the South Network Sets May 27 Launch

"The Soul of the South Network, targeting African-American viewers, said Thursday it will launch in 30 markets May 27 after closing an initial round of funding for $10 million raised from the state of Arkansas and private investors," Alex Ben Block reported Thursday for the Hollywood Reporter.


"The new network will be distributed initially by over-the-air stations and on digital channels on the broadcast spectrum but also plans to air on cable and expects its stations to qualify under FCC must-carry rules (which mandate nearby cable systems must carry it) because it is local and offers unique news programming.

" 'Our distribution footprint covers at least 70 percent of all African-American households in the south and in Chicago and Philadelphia, which we call sister regions,' says Doug McHenry, the Hollywood-based producer of films including New Jack City and House Party and TV shows including Malcolm & Eddie, who is the new network's president of entertainment.


"By the end of this summer, Soul of the South expects to be in 50-60 markets with a high concentration of African-Americans, reaching 30-40 million households.

"At launch over Memorial Day weekend, the network will not have any original programming outside of an active news presence in its local markets.


The story added, "The lead investors in the Soul of the South Network include Richard Mays, a former Arkansas Supreme Court justice and civil rights attorney, who is chairman of the board; Edwin V. Avent, who is CEO; attorney Christopher Rankin Clark, who is executive vp business and legal affairs; and Matthew J. Gruber from Mississippi, who is vice chairman of the board."

Tom Jacobs is news director.

Black Network Plans 5 Hours of News (June 8, 2012)

News release: SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK Set to Launch Memorial Day Weekend After Securing Nearly $10 Million Investor Infusion


Mike Reynolds, Multichannel News: Multiethnic TV Awards: BET's Lee to Competitors — Bring It On

Chicago Tribune to Follow AP Style on Immigrants

The Chicago Tribune has decided to follow the Associated Press in its declaration that the word "illegal" should describe an action, not a person, when discussing immigrants who are in the country illegally, Joe Knowles, associate managing editor/editing and presentation at the  Tribune, told Journal-isms on Friday. .


"We decided to follow AP style on 'illegal immigrant' and 'illegal immigration,' " Knowles said by email. "Where possible, we will be more specific ('in the country illegally' or 'in the country on an expired visa')."

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