Bob Herbert, the first African American op-ed columnist at the New York Times, is leaving the paper after 18 years, the Times said on Friday. His last column appeared on Saturday.
"I have been writing a column for 25 years, nearly 18 at The New York Times," Herbert said in a note to the Times staff.
"The deadlines and demands were a useful discipline but for some time now I have grown eager to move beyond the constriction of the column format, with its rigid 800-word limit, in favor of broader and more versatile efforts. So I am leaving The New York Times and the rewards and rigors of daily journalism with the intent of writing more expansively and more aggressively about the injustices visited on working people, the poor and the many others in our society who find themselves on the wrong side of power."
Andrew Rosenthal, editor of The Times opinion pages, "said it was too soon to know who might replace Mr. Herbert, and whether it would be one person or possibly more," Jeremy W. Peters reported for the Times.
Rosenthal wrote to the staff, "His columns over the years have been extraordinary, from his crucial series on the false arrests and imprisonment of dozens of innocent people in Tulia, Texas, to his profiles of soldiers wounded in combat, to his recent work on the individuals and families devastated by the Great Recession and its aftermath. "He was often called 'the conscience of The Times' and will take his place in the long, proud history of Times op-ed columnists."
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Rosenthal was "very committed to diversity" and was sure he would "make every effort to maintain a diverse group of columnists." Charles M. Blow, who also is African American, began writing a Saturday multimedia column in 2008. Herbert wrote twice a week.
[In his final column, he declared, "Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.
["New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed."]
Herbert, 66, was a champion of such social justice issues as the imprisonment of the recently released Scott sisters in Mississippi and the citizens of Tulia, Texas, "who were rounded up, arrested, and convicted on drug charges fabricated by a rogue racial cop — with the acquiescence of prosecutors, politicians, and judges," in the words of the jacket to the 2005 book collecting his work, "Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream."
Jamie and Gladys Scott are two black Mississippi women who they said had been unjustly imprisoned for nearly 20 years. Herbert helped bring public attention to their plight last year, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour suspended their sentences in December.
Herbert also wrote frequently about the plight of the jobless and the poor. In February 2010, while the nation was in the grip of recession, Herbert wrote, "The point here is that those in the lower-income groups are in a much, much deeper hole than the general commentary on the recession would lead people to believe. And none of the policy prescriptions being offered by the administration or the leaders of either party in Congress would in any way substantially alleviate the plight of those groups.
"We talk about the recession as if all of its victims were suffering equally, and all will be helped by some bland, class-and-category-neutral solution.
Some journalists said they felt Herbert had become predictable, but that sentiment had no traction with such admirers as Isaiah Poole, editor of OurFuture.org, website and blog of the Campaign for America's Future, who said he felt Herbert's loss already. Poole is a former leader of the Washington Association of Black Journalists who briefly ran a nonprofit AIDS education organization in Washington, where he became noted for his advocacy for people living with HIV.
"The loss of Bob Herbert at the New York Times is a shattering blow to people like me who appreciated his too-rare advocacy for the poor, the voiceless and the downtrodden," he wrote to Journal-isms. ". . . I also have a concern that as newspapers continue to struggle in today's economy, our political discourse continues to be controlled by a small group of mostly white people who do not represent the diversity of the country and who are not in touch with the struggles of millions of American people."
Herbert's influence came not only from his perch at the Times, but because his column was distributed worldwide through the Times news service.
Still, Herbert was not without his critics. Novelist Ishmael Reed, who is also a media critic, told writer Jill Nelson last year, "Maybe Bob Herbert, who blames all of the 'underclass’s' problems on crack mothers and absentee fathers, the editorial line of the Times, would discover the complexity of urban crime were he to live in one of these neighborhoods instead of parachuting in from time to time and coming away with a sensational Neo-liberal eye bite."
Peters wrote for the Times, "Mr. Herbert’s move comes at a time of major shifts in the opinion pages of The Times. Mr. Rosenthal is assuming control of the Week in Review section and is working on a plan to reinvent it under a new name, adding more opinion and commentary pieces. The opinion pages recently redesigned its section on NYTimes.com, and Mr. Rosenthal plans to add more online content in the months ahead. He has also hired a new editor for the Op-Ed page, Trish Hall, who succeeded David Shipley when Mr. Shipley left The Times to help lead a new opinion-writing endeavor for Bloomberg News.
"Mr. Rosenthal is also shuffling his lineup of columnists after the departure of Frank Rich earlier this month and the addition of Joe Nocera, a columnist for the business section, to the Op-Ed page. Mr. Rosenthal said it was too soon to know who might replace Mr. Herbert, and whether it would be one person or possibly more.
"Mr. Herbert did not share the details of his plans, saying only that he was leaving to focus on his book and a 'soon-to-be-announced effort to help bolster progressive journalism.' "
According to his bio, "Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Herbert was a national correspondent for NBC from 1991 to 1993, reporting regularly on 'The Today Show' and 'NBC Nightly News.' He had worked as a reporter and editor at The Daily News from 1976 until 1985, when he became a columnist and member of its editorial board.
"In 1990, Mr. Herbert was a founding panelist of 'Sunday Edition,' a weekly discussion program on WCBS-TV in New York, and the host of Hotline, a weekly issues program on New York public television.
"He began his career as a reporter with The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., in 1970. He became its night city editor in 1973." [Updated March 26]
Geraldine Ferraro, who died Saturday at 75, was being praised as a path-breaking figure who paved the way for women in high-profile politics as Democrat Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984.
But in 2008, she earned a rebuke from the National Association of Black Journalists as one whose comments demonstrated "unapologetic bigotry."
Journal-isms published this item on May 23, 2008:
Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate and supporter of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, has demonstrated "unapologetic bigotry" in suggesting that black journalists are surrogates for the Barack Obama campaign, the National Association of Black Journalists said on Friday.
"NABJ is outraged that a former vice presidential candidate would suggest that all black reporters are mouthpieces for the Obama campaign. To suggest this shows not only a stunning lack of judgment but also her unapologetic bigotry," Barbara Ciara, president of the organization, said in a statement. "Ms. Ferraro used her appearance on Fox News to reinforce stereotypes that suggest that black reporters can't be trusted to cover another person of color without bias and favoritism."
Ferraro, who earlier in the campaign had suggested that Obama had succeeded chiefly because he is black — a statement that was widely criticized — had this exchange on Tuesday with Shepard Smith of Fox News:
FERRARO: "Well yeah…I think…you know all the surrogates that they had out there from the black journalists…have you read Bob Herbert recently in the past six months? There wasn't one column that had anything decent to say about Hillary."
SMITH: "Well, that's more media though. Is that the campaign?"
FERRARO: "Well, well…yeah…if you have conference calls with these people every week and you give them your message and they put your message in the paper, that to me is campaign. But I'll go further than that. When he…and, by the way, this is not an issue any longer in this campaign. I've been speaking about sexist behavior in this campaign since December."
Ferraro might have been referring to conference calls that all the campaigns have with reporters.
To suggest that black journalists have done anything less than cover this campaign fairly and objectively "is a direct attack on not only their integrity, but the integrity of all journalists who work every day to provide good, honest journalism," said Ernie Suggs, vice president of print, in a news release.
"African Americans make up a tiny fraction of journalists covering this historic campaign. We are more than qualified to handle the job objectively," said Kathy Times, vice president of broadcast.
James Burnett blog, Miami Herald: Dang! Ferraro found out (May 27, 2008)
Jack White, theRoot.com: Channeling George Wallace (Oct. 2, 2008)
"The U.S. Census Bureau released today the second in a series of 2010 Census briefs, Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010 [PDF], which looks at our nation's changing racial and ethnic diversity and provides a snapshot of the racial and Hispanic origin composition of the United States," the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.
"The examination of racial and ethnic group distributions nationally shows that while the non-Hispanic white alone population is still numerically and proportionally the largest major race and ethnic group in the United States, it is also growing at the slowest rate. Conversely, the Hispanic and Asian populations have grown considerably, in part because of relatively higher levels of immigration.
"More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. The rise in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.
"The non-Hispanic population grew relatively slower over the decade at about 5 percent. Within the non-Hispanic population, the number of people who reported their race as white alone grew even slower (1 percent). While the non-Hispanic white alone population increased numerically from 194.6 million to 196.8 million over the 10-year period, its proportion of the total population declined from 69 percent to 64 percent.
"The overwhelming majority (97 percent) of the total U.S. population reported only one race in 2010. This group totaled 299.7 million. Of these, the largest group reported white alone (223.6 million), accounting for 72 percent of all people living in the United States. The black or African-American population totaled 38.9 million and represented 13 percent of the total population.
"Approximately 14.7 million people (about 5 percent of all respondents) identified their race as Asian alone. There were 2.9 million respondents who indicated American Indian and Alaska Native alone (0.9 percent). The smallest major race group was Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone (0.5 million), which represented 0.2 percent of the total population. The remainder of respondents who reported only one race, 19.1 million people (6 percent of all respondents), were classified as 'some other race' alone.
"Nine million people reported more than one race in the 2010 Census and made up about 3 percent of the total population. Ninety-two percent of people who reported multiple races provided exactly two races in 2010; white and black was the largest multiple-race combination. . . ."
Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Reverse Migration Cont.
Haya El Nasser, USA Today: Census: Hispanic, Asian populations soar
Jim Galloway, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A census speeds Atlanta toward racially neutral ground
Karl Greenberg, mediapost.com: U.S. Census Is All About Hispanic, Local
Carol Morello and Dan Keating, Washington Post: Number of black D.C. residents plummets as majority status slips away
Susan Saulny, New York Times: Census Data Presents Rise in Multiracial Population of Youths
Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff, New York Times: Many U.S. Blacks Moving to South, Reversing Trend
"It started with the kind of call every reporter has nightmares about," Colin Ferguson told NPR listeners on Thursday.
" 'We made a serious error and are profoundly sorry,' said Judy Stavisky, executive director of Friends of the Children.
"In February, I profiled a boy named Anthony who had participated in Friends of the Children, a mentoring program for at-risk kids in Portland, Ore. His was a story of success, but there was one problem: He wasn't the right Anthony.
"The story was supposed to be a follow-up to one that first aired 10 years ago, and the mentoring group tried to help me find the Anthony I originally interviewed — they hadn't given me his last name back then because he was just 8 years old.
"Stavisky calls the mixup an 'honest mistake.'
". . . Anthony Blackmon, from last month's profile, is in college and said Friends of the Children helped him overcome the odds to get there.
". . . Anthony Barber dropped out of Friends of the Children in high school because he moved away. He's now 19 years old and not exactly what you'd call an inspiration.
"While Blackmon is in college, Barber is in the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland."
"President Obama plans to talk about the military operation in Libya on Monday evening in a nationally televised speech at the National Defense University, the White House said, offering his first formal explanation of the goals of this increasingly complex and dangerous mission," Mark Landler reported Friday in the New York Times. "Mr. Obama has come under criticism from Republicans in Congress for failing to provide a coherent explanation of the operation, which is in its sixth day. Administration officials say the air strikes have averted a rout by Col. [Moammar Gaddafi] in the Libyan city of Benghazi and established a no-fly zone over Libya."
Amiri Baraka, voxunion.com: The New Invasion of Africa
Charles D. Ellison, theLoop21.com: POLITRIX: In Libya, Obama Creates ‘War’ You Can Believe In
Naomi Hunt, International Press Institute: IPI Alarmed at Reports of Bloggers, Journalists Detained in Syria
Eric Lichtblau, David Rohde and James Risen, New York Times: Shady Dealings Helped [Gaddafi] Build Fortune and Regime
Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Intervention by Any Other Name
Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Call war what you will — it's still folly
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Goldilocks doctrine: The right course?
Reporters Without Borders: Authorities impose news blackout on crackdown in Deraa [Syria]
Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Obama’s visit to El Salvador
Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram: Coalition-led military ops necessary to tame [Gaddafi]
David Swerdlick, theRoot.com: Why No One Likes Obama's Libya War
Marian Wang, ProPublica: In the Allied War in Libya, Exactly How Involved Is the United States?
Armstrong Williams blog: Who the hell do you think you are?
"I have recently been shocked and appalled by ads that I and other Black publishers saw in several major newspapers (The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) confirming that Toyota spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertise in White mainstream daily newspapers 'THANKING' their general market consumers for their loyalty and patronage to Toyota during their time of major controversy and concerns over the safety of Toyota’s vehicles, Danny Bakewell, chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote in a column this week.
"Thanking their customers is a smart move on Toyota’s behalf and one that I applaud. However, we can’t overlook the fact that Black people represent almost 10 percent of Toyota’s American market share, and with a $1.2 billion annual advertising budget it is not unreasonable for the Black Press to always expect to have a stake in Toyota’s advertising (including Black advertising agencies). Nevertheless, Black newspapers were left off Toyota’s latest marketing campaign, sending a clear and direct message that the Black consumer is still being taken for granted and Black people are still being disrespected and undervalued," wrote Bakewell, publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel.
". . . As chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, I represent 200 Black publishers throughout America. I am challenging Toyota’s chairman and CEO to do the right thing and meet with me to discuss the future of their relationship with Black consumers and whether or not we as Black newspaper publishers should continue supporting Toyota or should organize a campaign to take Black brand loyalty to Toyota elsewhere. WE WILL NOT BUY WHERE WE ARE DISRESPECTED….THAT IS A PROMISE!"
At an NNPA luncheon last week, Mary Alice Thatch, publisher of the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal, provided a retrospective on the Wilmington 10, who were falsely convicted and imprisoned in 1972 on arson and conspiracy charges. The case became an international cause celebre and while their convictions were overturned in 1980, no pardon was issued.
"NNPA is rallying its member newspapers to support that cause in the year ahead," Khalil Abdullah reported for New America Media. Benjamin Chavis Jr., one of the 10 who went on to briefly become president of the NAACP, spoke to the group.