News of Don Cornelius' Death Goes Viral

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

"Law Enforcement Sources" Tip Off Celebrity Website TMZ

The tipster who notified about the death of "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius Wednesday morning might never be identified, but no identity was needed for the story to quickly consume social media and expand into the mainstream.

Advertisement, which has gained notoriety for breaking such celebrity news, reported at 6 a.m. Pacific Time: "Don Cornelius — who famously created 'Soul Train' was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, CA home this morning … and law enforcement sources tell us it appears he committed suicide.

"We're told cops discovered the body at around 4 AM PT. Law enforcement sources tell us … Cornelius died from a gunshot wound to the head and officials believe the wound was self-inflicted."

The Los Angeles Times followed 32 minutes later: "Law enforcement sources said police arrived at Cornelius' home around 4 a.m. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing."

From there, the story went viral, as it was confirmed, tributes flowed and surprising biographical information surfaced, such as Cornelius' brief life as a journalist.

"Don Cornelius was born in Chicago on September 27, 1936. He grew up on Chicago's predominantly black South Side and attended DuSable High School, where he studied art and drew cartoons for the school newspaper," according to Jordan Wankoff in "Contemporary Black Biography."

Greg Kot wrote in the Chicago Tribune that Cornelius "worked numerous jobs": he sold insurance, worked as a TV newsman and deejayed at WVON, which serenaded the South and West Sides with soul music. While employed at WCIU-TV in the '60s, he started hosting soul dance parties around the city and eventually approached station management about a show based on the same idea. They accepted."


The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Cornelius started his career as a fill-in disc jockey and also worked in the news department at WVON-AM in 1966, having gone to broadcasting school after working in the insurance business.

"He also appeared on WCIU-Channel 26's 'A Black's View of the News' before he created 'Soul Train,' which would become the longest-running syndicated program in television history."


Molly Kelly, a spokeswoman for WCIU Radio, confirmed that Cornelius "did the news in the late '60s" but said the station's archives "have a gap in them" for the time Cornelius worked there.

In any event, "Soul Train" made such an impression that websites and newscasts were adjusted Wednesday to include news and discussions of Cornelius' death. Some sites featured a photo gallery that included a black-and-white photo of Cornelius holding a tape recorder as he interviewed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., apparently when Cornelius was working at WCIU.


"The death of Don Cornelius was the talk of the USA TODAY newsroom on Wednesday, as it was in much of America," USA Today reported in introducing a first-person essay by Melanie Eversley, " 'Soul Train' and Saturday mornings live on in memories."

"BET has a big Don Cornelius and 'Soul Train' tribute in the works - much of which will start in a few hours," Verne Gay wrote Wednesday afternoon for Newsday. " '106th and Park' will start it off at 6 p.m., followed by a repeat airing of that very good documentary, 'Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America,' which VH1 and VH1 Classic will also air.


"Also, Centric will air a 24-hour marathon of what it's calling 'classic' 'Soul Train' episodes."

On Twitter, William Jelani Cobb, associate professor of Africana studies and a member of the history department faculty at Rutgers, wrote, "The upside of teaching a course on hip hop culture is that I can devote the entire next class to Don Cornelius … "


Dan Charnas, author of "The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop," wrote for NPR, "Don Cornelius proved a truism about America and race that so few people, even today, understand: Black culture, expressed in undiluted form and unapologetically, will by virtue become accepted by the American mainstream. It's something that future rap moguls like Russell Simmons and Jay-Z understood instinctively."

Kot's assessment in the Chicago Tribune: "Cornelius' show mirrored African-American culture and influenced it, not just with music but with its sense of style and language. Cornelius' invitation to visit and 'style a while,' and depart with 'peace, love and soul' fit with his unflappable demeanor. Behind the double-breasted suits, professorial glasses and smooth turns of phrase was a keen sense of business and community. In an industry dominated by whites, he was a pioneering African-American empire builder.


" … 'I don't know of any more of a significant show than 'Soul Train,' said Kevin Swain, director of the 2010 documentary 'Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America.' 'Dick Clark obviously had an impact, but in modern pop culture, 'Soul Train' was the most important vehicle because it brought African-American culture to television in a way that hadn't been seen before, and it brought it in a fun and hip way that wasn't heavy handed or overly political. And it was the single most important show for promoting black music. There probably wouldn't be a (cable channel such as) BET without 'Soul Train.' "

[On Thursday, after a piece by correspondent Bill Whitaker, co-hosts Gayle King and Charlie Rose interviewed son Tony Cornelius on "CBS This Morning." The younger Cornelius said of his dad, "Our family could never know how uncomfortable he really was," and that "He wanted to expose the masses to a new way of looking at black-oriented television" [Video].


* John Blake and Todd Leopold, CNN: How Don Cornelius became the 'pope of soul'

* Ericka Blount Danois, [EXCERPT] 'Soul Train's Mighty Ride  

* Fred Bronson, Billboard: 'Soul Train' Founder Don Cornelius: The Billboard Interviews  


* Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: RIP Don Cornelius: The Soul Train host who gave black America a proud voice on television

* Must-See: The First Episode of 'Soul Train' Featuring Gladys Knight & The Pips  


* Henry Louis Gates Jr., How Don Cornelius Got His Start  

* Verne Gay, Newsday: Tom Joyner on Cornelius, 'Soul Train'  

* Ben Greenman, the New Yorker: The Last Don: Remembering the Conductor of "Soul Train"  


* Edward Gilbreath, DeVona Alleyne, Jacqueline J. Holness, Dr. Vincent Bacote, Wanda Thomas Littles, Jelani Greenidge, Christine A. Scheller, Julian DeShazier, Wil LaVeist, Urban Faith: We Remember 'Soul Train' [Feb. 2]  

* Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Don Cornelius dead: Why Soul Train will never leave America's station  


* Dwayne McClary, Don Cornelius remembered: Love, 'rest in peace' and soul  

* James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times: Don Cornelius, 'Soul Train' Creator, Is Dead  


* Nekesa Mumbi Moody and David Bauder, Associated Press: Don Cornelius Took 'Soul Train' On Pioneering Trip

* MSNBC: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder [and other celebrities] pay tribute to Don Cornelius


* Don Cornelius Ex-Wife Scores Huge Life Insurance Payout  

* Sami Yenigun, NPR: 'Soul Train' Creator Don Cornelius Dies At 75  

* Shamontiel L. Vaughn, Chicago Defender: Archives: Soul Train reunion to honor show host, Ghent


Dolores Barclay, Entertainment Editor at AP, Laid Off

Dolores Barclay, a longtime black journalist at the Associated Press who most recently was East Coast entertainment editor, was laid off on Monday, according to sources at the news cooperative.


Also laid off was Lifestyles Editor Lisa Tolin, who was on maternity leave, the sources said. The moves follow last month's layoff of two assistant bureau chiefs of color, Miami-based Michelle Morgante, assistant Florida bureau chief and Caribbean business manager, and Andrew Fraser, assistant Pennsylvania bureau chief, based in Philadelphia.

Paul Colford, spokesman for the AP, told Journal-isms then, "We've made some changes based on evolving business needs."


Barclay could not be reached for comment. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was East Coast entertainment editor for 14 years, worked previously as a national writer, taught storytelling and investigative reporting at Rutgers University and authored several books.

One tribute on that site is from Bruce deSilva, news/features editor at the AP: "I have worked with Dolores Barclay for more than 15 years now," he wrote. "For much of that time, I was her immediate supervisor. For part of that time, we were in different departments but often still worked closely together. At times I have edited her work, and at times she has edited mine.


"She spends most of her time directing AP arts coverage, and she is excellent at it, She is a fine line editor, has lots of good ideas, and is outstanding at dealing with staff. She is also a very good writer and (although she is not often called upon to use this skill) an outstanding reporter. In fact, she was one of the lead reporters on an award-winning AP investigation involving black land ownership — one of the finest AP projects of the last 20 years. She is also a wonderful colleague and a great team player."  

* Jim Romenesko blog: AP lets 10 staffers go in restructuring  

* Joe Strupp, Jim Romenesko blog: Q&A with departing AP CEO Tom Curley

Clash Between Sharpton, Gingrich Backer Makes Riveting TV

"During the Florida primary coverage last night on MSNBC, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rick Tyler, a strategist for the Gingrich-backing super-PAC, Winning Our Future, entered into a heated exchange that covered topics from food stamps to black role models to the president singing," Daniel Woolsey reported Wednesday for


It was likely the most riveting exchange in Tuesday night's coverage of Florida's Republican presidential primary. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney re-established his front-runner status with 46 percent of the vote. A defiant former House speaker Newt Gingrich won 32 percent, former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania garnered 13 percent and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, 7 percent.

Discussing Gingrich, Sharpton told Tyler, ". . . he said, and I'm quoting here, that he would go to the NAACP and tell black people to stop being satisfied with food stamps, he didn't say 'people on food stamps,' he said black people.


"Don't be satisfied with food stamps, they should demand jobs. Black people in communities, youngsters don't have role models. This is not what he said when he went on the tour that President Obama asked him to go on," referring to the fall 2009 trip Sharpton and Gingrich took to promote education.

"He's brought race in the campaign by name. You cannot then turn around and act like [MSNBC host] Rachel [Maddow] or I'm bringing up racism. Wait a minute, I'm going to let you finish, but I want to finish this part. He brought up race, now you have to answer. If he didn't want to deal with race, why did he bring up race? It is a patent untruth that President Obama has more people on food stamps - more people went on food stamps under George W. Bush than President Obama. Would you call him a food stamp president?"  


* Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Is it Okay to use the Term 'Cracker' when describing Florida voters?  

* Vanessa Cárdenas, Latina Lista blog: Romney Takes Wrong Track on Economy for Latinos: Candidate Plans to Cut into Programs Important to Hispanics 


* Brian E. Crowley, Columbia Journalism Review: Romney's Hispanic Support: About That Florida Poll  

* James Crugnale, MEDIAite: Maddow Brands Gingrich's Attack On Obama's Singing 'Racial Allusions,' 'Minstrelsy'  


* George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Lies Pollute Republican Presidential Debates  

* Chloé A. Hilliard, Can Mitt Romney Lead America if Mormons Denounced Blacks?


* Huffington Post: Rachel Maddow: Romney Has 'Issues Of Patriotism' Due To Offshore Accounts

* Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN: Latinos won't forget Romney's 'anti-immigrant' talk


* Juan Williams, the Hill: Racial code words obscure real issue

Vanity Fair Dismisses Criticism of Latest Hollywood Cover

"The 2012 Hollywood Issue cover of Vanity Fair — shot by Mario Testino — features 11 'starlets' shot in satin and feathers for a '20s and '30s boudoir feel,' Dodai Stewart wrote Tuesday on


"The ladies on the power panel — the left third, aka the actual newsstand cover — are Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain. Pariah's Adepero Oduye and Mission Impossible's Paula Patton are the only two ladies of color, and they are not on the power panel, but on the right two-thirds of the cover, which is folded up and tucked away when on newsstands."

"This cover … is an improvement from the 2010 Young Hollywood cover, which only featured white actresses. But it upholds the unfortunate tradition of shoving the people of color to the right and [off] the main panel. Something Vanity Fair has been doing for years. (Usually Annie Leibovitz has been the photographer.)"


Beth Kseniak, Vanity Fair's executive director of public relations, told Journal-isms on Wednesday, "We're very pleased with our cover and the talented women who adorn all three panels."

Lisa Garcia Quiroz Named Time Warner Diversity Officer

Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president for corporate responsibility at Time Warner Inc., has been given the additional responsibility of chief diversity officer, the company's first, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman of the board and CEO, told employees on Tuesday.


"Before joining corporate," Bewkes said, "she worked at Time Inc., where she launched two businesses that identified and successfully served new markets: Time for Kids and People en Español. And as those of you who have worked with her know, she has been immersed in the understanding and pursuit of the multicultural opportunities that exist for us company-wide."

He added, "Lisa will have a dotted line to me on the diversity areas of her work."


Bewkes took the occasion to praise the company's progress on diversity and mentioned that he had attended the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans for the first time. Essence became a Time Inc. property in 2005.

"Today, Time Warner hires as many women as men into our professional ranks, and more than 40% of our VPs and above are female," Bewkes said. "Over the past decade, we also increased the number of diverse managers, VPs and above, by more than 50%. These executives currently lead many of our most important brands and functions across the company, and they are driving key cross-platform initiatives with an eye on changes in programming and content that reflect the world we do business in today.


"Our workforce has evolved alongside the recognition of the growing importance and influence of our changing consumer base. Diverse audiences are driving growth not just for brands that specifically target multicultural consumers, but for general market brands as well. And Time Warner is better at reaching all audiences with our exceptional content than any of our competitors. We have the leading brands in these markets because we have persistently worked to identify and serve the interests and needs of emerging audiences.

"This has been another keen focus of mine over the past several years, and I am encouraged by the progress we have made. In 2007, I began to host an annual multicultural business summit, and we have conducted ground-breaking research and expanded our marketing efforts intelligently to reach new audiences and spark cross-divisional collaboration.


"To give just one example, this past year I attended the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans for the first time. I was deeply impressed by the breadth and depth of that business initiative and the brands, including many of our own, that have joined to make the festival a rousing success."

Black Newspaper Publishers Seek to Fill New CEO Position

The National Newspaper Publishers Association, which says it represents more than 200 black community newspapers, is looking to hire its first president and CEO, one who would "serve as the 'national face and spokesperson' of the association," according to Marian H. Carrington, whose Chicago-based executive search firm has been retained by NNPA.


"They finally have the funding and the resources to try … to take this organization to new heights," Carrington told Journal-isms on Wednesday. The NNPA chairman, a working publisher, currently serves as the "face" of the organization.

Carrington's announcement says, "The President & CEO will create and implement strategic plans and programs that serve the needs of the newspaper publishing community and ensure the financial health of the organization and serves as the advocate and lobbyist for funding and policies that fulfill the strategic intent.


"The successful candidate must be able to lead with diplomacy, tact, agility, a high level of sophistication, cultural competencies and discernment.

"National Newspaper Publishers Association is seeking a dynamic thought leader with a successful track record with a national organization. The individual should bring 10+ years of experience in a leadership position and proven business, P&L, strategic, and development experience is essential. Knowledge in media, publishing, advertisement, marketing, sales and/or associations is desired."


Those interested may contact Carrington at 312-606-0015, ext. 107, or mcarrington (at)

The position comes with "a market competitive salary plus bonus."

Why Aren't There More Arab-American Journalists?

"There are anywhere between 3.5 and 5.1 million Americans of Arab descent, according to figures from the Arab American Institute, yet relatively few work in journalism full time," Justin D. Martin wrote Tuesday for the Columbia Journalism Review.


" … Arabs in America are predominantly Egyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese, and Iraqi, and many immigrated or fled to the United States to escape violence or other forms of repression. They left countries in which political change via a free press and meaningful elections was not likely. Historically, journalism in Arab countries has not provided a middle class existence with any more than a semblance of prestige, but is rather a field of meager pay that operates at the pleasure of autocrats.

" … Following the Arab spring and with the partial opening of press systems in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, it is possible that more Arab Americans will be encouraged to serve the public in journalism or politics, and I hope they do. America's approach to world affairs would be better for it. For now, though, many Arabs don't view journalism as one of the keys to a better life, and I can't blame them."


Freedman's 19th-Century Letter Creates Buzz in the 21st

A letter from a former slave published in a newspaper supporting the abolitionist cause gained renewed attention this week when a website called "Letters of Note" republished it on Monday.


"In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan - who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family - responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated)," the site, edited by Shaun Usher, reads.

"Rather than quote the numerous highlights in this letter, I'll simply leave you to enjoy it. Do make sure you read to the end."


The letter appeared in the Aug. 22, 1865, edition of Horace Greeley's New York Daily Tribune, a strongly abolitionist newspaper.

Washington Post Editor Plans Cuts, Won't Say How Many

The Washington Post plans to reduce the size of its newsroom staff, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli told Journal-isms on Wednesday, but Brauchli said there was no plan to cut 100 newsroom jobs, a figure cited last month by former managing editor Raju Narisetti.


Narisetti resigned effective Feb. 1 to rejoin the Wall Street Journal as managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network.

At a Jan. 11 meeting of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Narisetti said the Post will likely eliminate about 100 positions in the next two years.


Brauchli was asked whether the Newspaper Guild accurately represented his position when it quoted Peter Perl, assistant managing editor for professional development & standards, speaking for Brauchli in saying, "There is no plan to cut 100 newsroom jobs" and "We will continue to reduce expenses (and that inevitably means some jobs) to keep costs and revenues in line."

"Correct," Brauchli responded by email. "That said, we also have said that we plan to reduce the size of our staff, as we sharpen our focus and build readership around our core mission, and that will continue." He did not respond to a question about how much of the staff would be cut.


Short Takes

* Ada M. Alvarez Conde, Spanish language at-large officer of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, resigned from the board on Wednesday. "The bylaws of the organization establish that I have to earn more than 50% of my salary in a news gathering position," she wrote. "In November I moved back to Puerto Rico to start my PhD. Also, I started working as Press Director of Senator Eduardo Bhatia from Puerto Rico." Alvarez had previously been student representative to the board, as well as multimedia editor for Washington Hispanic newspaper.


* "Iran's president on Tuesday lauded his country's newly launched Spanish-language satellite TV channel, saying it would deal a blow to 'dominance seekers' - remarks that were an apparent jab at the U.S. and the West," Nasser Karimi reported Tuesday for the Associated Press. "The launch is Tehran's latest effort to reach out to friendly governments in Latin America and follows Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's four-nation tour of the region earlier in January. . . .

* "The New York Times fired off another letter to the Police Department today on behalf of 13 New York-based news organizations about police treatment of the press over the last several months," Joe Pompeo reported Wednesday for The news organizations include the New York Post, Daily News, Associated Press, Reuters, Dow Jones, Bloomberg News, the National Press Photographers Association, several local TV affiliates and others. They say problems have persisted since the news outlets complained in November during the height of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, Pompeo wrote.


* "ABC News president Ben Sherwood is changing up a couple of correspondent assignments, while bringing on a new reporter: Reena Ninan, late of Fox News," Chris Ariens wrote Wednesday for TVNewser. "Ninan is joining the Washington, DC bureau after covering the Middle East for FNC. . . . Jim Avila, who has been based in New York, is relocating to Washington, D.C. where he will be Senior National Correspondent overseeing a new investigative unit focused on food, drug, airline and environmental safety issues."

* "The independent Manhattan movie house Film Forum has decided to pull its advertising from the Village Voice, citing concerns about, the classifieds site owned by Voice parent company Village Voice Media," Kat Stoeffel reported Tuesday in the New York Observer. Longtime Film Forum director Karen Cooper told Off the Record that Nicholas Kristof's Friday op-ed in The New York Times prompted her decision. 'It really held accountable for underage prostitution,' she said."


* " 'TheGrio's 100' list was unveiled on 'Today' this morning," Merrill Knox reported Tuesday for TVNewser. "The list, organized by NBC's, honors Black History Month . . . by spotlighting 100 individuals from various fields that are 'the next generation of African-American history makers and industry leaders.' There are two MSNBCers featured: Melissa Harris-Perry, who will host a weekend show on MSNBC beginning next month, Yvette Miley, the vice president and executive editor of the network. T.J. Holmes, who left CNN for BET in December, also made the list."

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