The Prince Story Became Personal in Newsrooms Across the Country

Barbara Ciara, a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists, joined NABJ members at the Paisley Park complex in suburban Minneapolis Aug. 8, 2015.
Jason Miccolo Johnson
Barbara Ciara, a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists, joined NABJ members at the Paisley Park complex in suburban Minneapolis Aug. 8, 2015.
Jason Miccolo Johnson

The personal became the professional this week as the sudden death at 57 Thursday of pop music icon Prince led news organizations to include the reminiscences of staff members who grew up listening to—or later reporting on—the superstar.

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That personal involvement was part of a flood of coverage that engulfed a news media seeking a respite from presidential primary politics and demonstrated again how a diversity of backgrounds can make news coverage richer. It didn't hurt that Prince appealed to the age demographic of so many who report and make decisions about news.

"For a few unforgettable weeks in 1985, I had a girlfriend who used to lip-sync all the vocal parts of 'Erotic City' like she was a fully deputized member of Prince’s entourage," Tony Norman wrote Friday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Leona Allen wrote Thursday for the Dallas Morning News, "I discovered him around about 8th grade, with his big ol’ afro that he returned to in recent years. I had to hide some of the lyrics to his songs from my parents. . . ."

Alejandro Danois wrote Thursday for the Shadow League, "Prince's music was the soundtrack of my adolescence and his presence hovered just beneath everything else that influenced me in the '80s, '90s, 2000's and beyond." In the Guardian, Steven W. Thrasher, who is biracial and was the 2012 Journalist of the Year for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, became one of many who wrote that Prince challenged notions of manliness. "In recent years, long after I figured I was gay, I started buying Prince on vinyl: five albums have gotten me through writing this: 1999, Parade, Controversy, For You, and Around the World in a Day," he wrote Thursday in the Guardian.

"Prince was so ahead of me in my own understanding of what it means to be black in this country, to have a sexuality and gender expression at odds with the white men who try to tell everyone else how to behave — and to embrace what is amorphous, not easily categorized, beautiful, and yet unknown," Thrasher wrote.

Some of those who commented attended last August's convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Minneapolis. Prince met with 10 journalists at his Paisley Park compound in suburban Chanhassen and at least 650 others attended a party there at Prince's invitation.

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"In Minneapolis, I was about to shake The Kid’s hand," Kelley L. Carter wrote for the Undefeated, the ESPN online project on the intersection of race, sports and culture that officially launches May 17. "And for the first time in my journalistic life, I had to force myself to maintain professionalism. . . ."

Bob Butler and Bryan Monroe, past NABJ presidents, gave interviews to broadcast outlets on the Aug. 8 experience.

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Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press global entertainment and lifestyles editor, spent a day with Prince at Paisley Park in September 2014. This week, the AP retransmitted her story of Sept. 29, 2014.

Lisa Respers France attended Prince's final concert last week at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. "If I only knew that a week after I cried during 'Nothing Compares 2 U,' I would be weeping for his death," France wrote for CNN. "We lingered in the theater even after the house lights came on. We weren't moving to the 'nearest exit,' as the house announcer asked. Prince had let us in, weaved his spell, and no one wanted it to end. We still don't."

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Perhaps the most riveting recollections were from those who knew Prince up close and personal.

Shaun Robinson, former host of the syndicated "Access Hollywood," said Friday on CNN's "Newsroom," "I've been reaching out to a lot of my friends, who were personal friends of Prince's also. And we feel this loss because we would always, you know, come to his house. You know, he would gather all of us.

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"You know, he would throw a party and we would all be there. We would know — we knew we would see each other the next time at Prince's place or we would see each other at his house at — at a concert or at dinner, something like that.

"And that sense of community that we had, it — the — the nuclear is now — it's now gone. And that's — that's really, really tough to really grasp and — and realize it's — it's no longer going to be.

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". . . And, I mean I — there have been times when it was just me, Prince and one other person and we would just have these long — very long, intimate conversations. And he was always pushing us to do better, to be better, to level up, as I like to call it, and use [our] platform to help other people.

"Like, what are you doing to change the world?

"He didn't want to have — he — the quickest way to lose Prince's attention was to just like just talk about the weather or just something light or just, you know, something with no substance. He wanted to have really deep conversations with the people that he was around. He wanted to talk about changing the world and making it better…"

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Van Jones, the activist and CNN commentator, was a friend of Prince. He talked about that on "CNN Tonight"Thursday with Don Lemon.

"Well, I just want to say that he wasn't just a musician, he was an incredible musician but that there was a core of genius that just used music to express itself. But he also was an incredible humanitarian, Don," Jones said.

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"He was a Jehovah's Witness so he was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts, any of his charitable activity. But I was one of the people in his life that helped him with all of that. And so, you know, he supported and help to create something called Yes We Code.

"Yes We code has now 15 major technology companies working with kids in the hood getting them ready for jobs in Silicon Valley. That was Prince. He worked with something called Green for All. I was the public face of that but he put the money in. There are people that have solar panel in their houses right now in Oakland, California that they don't know Prince paid for them.

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"He was the kind of friend, kind of you, Don, he didn't care. If you're having a good day, doesn't know he was there. It's when you're having a bad day that he comes to the rescue. And there are so many people. . . ."

Jones recalled when conservatives forced his resignation in 2009 as White House adviser for green jobs.

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"When I left the White House, he was the first person to call. Al Gore called me and he called me. And he said 'come over.' He got me coming to his house, Don.

"And he sat me down. I was just feeling so low and he looked at me and he said, 'Why are you so sad?' I said, well, because I had this great job, I was working in the White House, I was doing good things.

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"He said 'you're going to do good things again.' He said, 'let me tell you what you do, Van.' He said, 'go to Jerusalem, stay there for two weeks and pray.' He said, 'when you come back, sit down and give me a blank piece of paper and you write down everything that you want to do that you think will help the community and I will help you do it, OK?'

"So, I went from working for a president to working with Prince. . . ."

The Prince story led the network evening newscasts for two days. On Thursday, the network evening news shows opened with a rare seven minutes of coverage, and at least two of the shows came back to the story again at the end of the broadcast.

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Steve Yaeger, chief marketing officer for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, told Journal-isms by email, "Yesterday traffic on StarTribune.com hit a five-year high, and a new high for concurrent users. Prince’s passing was the biggest story since the collapse of the Metrodome" in 2010. He also said the Star Tribune plans a commemorative special section on Sunday, May 1.

Mike Burbach, editor of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, messaged Journal-isms Friday, "For the day, web traffic was about 50 percent above normal."

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In summarizing first-day coverage, James Warren concluded Thursday for the Poynter Institute, "Yes, the catalyst was a tragic passing. But after days and days of 24/7 Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, this was a refreshing shift into a popular and entertainment culture that doesn't get much voice most days."

TMZ Was First, but Others Not Ready to Trust It

"To almost no one’s surprise, the first media outlet to break the shocking news about Prince’s death on Thursday was TMZ.com, the gossip website that has landed numerous celebrity-related scoops," Paul Farhi reported Friday for the Washington Post.

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"Yet even though TMZ had the story before anyone else — it posted the news around 12:50 p.m. Eastern Time — other news organizations delayed reporting it. It wasn’t until the Associated Press confirmed the legendary musician’s death 17 minutes later that outlets around the world, including The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and BBC, jumped in, posting brief alerts citing AP’s dispatch from Chanhassen, Minn.

"The delayed reaction illustrates a paradox about TMZ: Although it has been quite reliable on many major stories, mainstream news sources are reluctant to rely on its say-so alone. The news, in effect, doesn’t become news until another source matches TMZ’s reporting. . . ."

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Lori Acken, TVNewsCheck: Prince Conquered Music on Television

Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times: From beginning to end, Prince was always surprising us

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Leona Allen, Dallas Morning News: Did you brave the ice storm of 1984 to see Prince at Reunion? I did.

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: The last time I saw Prince

Chuck Arnold, Essence: Rest in Power, Prince: In Memoriam of the Man and the Music

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Marc Bernardin, Los Angeles Times: Prince gave black kids the license to be who they wanted to be, not what society thought they should be

Zeba Blay, HuffPost BlackVoices: Prince’s Revolutionary, Complicated Relationship With Black Masculinity

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Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root: The Pain of Black Music Royalty Gone Too Soon (April 23)

Kelley L. Carter, the Undefeated (via Facebook): I met Prince. He told me something with a look. And I got it.

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Alejandro Danois, the Shadow League: The Beautiful One

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA | the Times-Picayune: We couldn't take our eyes off Prince, not even when he performed in disguise

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Eric Deggans with Renee Montagne, NPR: Prince's Mystique Grew Even As He Stayed Out Of The Hollywood Spotlight

Kevin Eck, TVSpy: Austin Meteorologist Does Prince Tribute During Forecast

Kevin Eck, TVSpy: Minneapolis Stations Cover News of Prince’s Death

Editorial, Daily News, New York: Long live Prince: A salute to the Minneapolis genius

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Editorial, Star Tribune, Minneapolis: Mourning Prince, a brilliant Minnesota original

Robin Givhan, Washington Post: Prince broke all the rules of fashion, and damn did he look good

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Lauren Green, Fox News Channel: Lauren Green reflects on Prince's life (video)

Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Prince — Beyond race, a genius' vision, an activist's heart

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Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder: Remembering Prince, a rare and spectacular talent

Kristen Hare, Poynter Institute: ‘Purple Reign’: Front pages mourn the death of Prince

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Marques Harper, Los Angeles Times: Heels, hair and clothes: 6 ways Prince explored sexuality, gender roles and fashion on his own terms

Erica Hernandez, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: VIDEO: AJC staffers discuss seeing Prince at the Fox Theatre

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Chuck Hobbs, theGrio.com: How Prince’s Life Redefined Black Manhood

Bill Hofheimer, ESPN: The Undefeated’s Kelley Carter discusses her 2015 interview with Prince

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Jason Johnson, The Root: The Politics of Prince

Van Jones, CNN: Prince — The man I knew

Mark Joyella, TVNewser: How the Network Morning Shows Remembered Prince

Mark Joyella, TVNewser: NBC’s Tamron Hall on Prince: ‘I’ve Lost One of My Best Friends’

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Elmo Keep, Fusion: Why Prince didn’t want his music on the internet

Gerrick D. Kennedy, Los Angeles Times: Inside Paisley Park: Purple everything, soul food — and Prince

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Andrew Limbong, NPR "Code Switch": Prince Lived Outside The Confines Of Genre, Race And Gender (audio)

David A. Love, theGrio.com: Prince broke every mold possible: ‘The only guy who could steal your girl and her wardrobe

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Alfred Maskeroni, adweek.com: Brands Post Tributes to Prince, but Struggle to Make Them Heartfelt and Not Promotional: At least two tweets have been deleted

Minnesota Public Radio: Encounters with Prince: Friends, fans and colleagues

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Prince’s death strikes an unexpected chord

David Moye, Huffington Post: Cheerios’ Tasteless Prince Tribute Bombs On Twitter

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Prince, the Sign O' all Times

NPR "Code Switch": Everybody Has A Prince Story (Or Should). Here Are Ours

Brandon Ellington Patterson, Mother Jones: We Dare You to Not Break Down Watching Prince's Tribute to Freddie Gray

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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Prince: One of the greatest pop music innovators of all time

Radio Ink: Radio Reacts Quickly To Death Of Prince

James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: Remembering Prince, a gifted artist whose music enchanted and electrified us for decades

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Kevin Rector, Baltimore Sun: Prince's lasting mark present in Smithsonian's growing Black Lives Matter, Baltimore unrest collection

Jody Rosen, New York Times: Prince and the Competition

Dru Sefton, current.org: Public media pays tribute to Prince

Mashaun D. Simon, NBCBLK: How Prince Redefined Masculinity Through His Music, Onstage

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Marc J. Spears, the Undefeated: Prince made a big impression on the Warriors

Ernie Suggs, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Sometimes It Snows In April: Last concert bittersweet for reporter

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Steven W. Thrasher, Guardian: Prince broke all the rules about what black American men should be

Justin Tinsley and Clinton Yates, the Undefeated: 10 times Prince touched the sports world

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Star Tribune, Minneapolis: Prince's final days: Where he was, what he did

Los Angeles Times coverage

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: In pop-culture mist, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer confuses ‘Purple Rain’ with ‘Purple Haze’

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Stereo Williams, Daily Beast: There Will Never Be Another Like Prince, the Greatest Recording Artist of All Time

Lilly Workneh, HuffPost BlackVoices: How Prince Became An Enduring Political Symbol

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Disney Sells Its Share in Fusion Back to Univision

"Walt Disney Co.'s ABC and Univision Communications have ended their nearly 3-year-old Fusion network joint venture aimed at millennial viewers," Meg James reported Thursday for the Los Angeles Times.

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"Disney on Thursday sold its 50% stake in the venture back to Univision, which plans to reposition several of its assets, including Fusion, as a 'multi-platform destination for the new, rising American mainstream,' Univision said in a statement.

"Univision now takes over ABC’s role in handling distribution and ad sales functions for Fusion and will maintain editorial control. The company said it was establishing a new business group to include several Univision properties, including Univision Music, Fusion, El Rey, The Root, The Onion, A.V. Club and Clickhole. . . ."

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Plans Change for Building Named After Trotter

A building at the University of Michigan named after legendary black journalist William Monroe Trotter was to be moved from its off-campus location to the main campus, but a $3 million gift from a university regent and his wife has altered those plans.

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The William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center will be in the new building, but the structure will be named after the regent and his wife.

"The University of Michigan has received a $3 million gift from Regent Mark Bernstein and his wife, Rachel Bendit, to help fund a new building that will house the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center," the university announced on Thursday.

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"The Board of Regents on Thursday approved naming the new building Bernstein-Bendit Hall. Construction was approved in December 2015. The Trotter Center currently is located off campus at 1443 Washtenaw Ave. . . ."

Trotter (April 7, 1872-April 7, 1934) "was an independent-minded and fiercely principled advocate for racial justice in his time," as a description on the center's website says. "Hailing from a Boston family with a tradition of activism, Trotter founded a newspaper in his hometown called The Guardian in 1901 and dedicated it to the struggle for equal rights for Blacks. He would edit the paper until his death in 1934. . . ." A group of prominent African American columnists founded in 1992 named themselves after Trotter, as has an institute at the University of Massachusetts.

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University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told Journal-isms it would be wrong to say that Trotter's name is now subsumed to those of the donors.

"It is not accurate to say that the Trotter name will be subsumed by the Bernstein-Bendit name," he wrote Friday by email.

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"The William Monroe Trotter name is not going away. It continues to be the name of the university’s multicultural center as it has been since 1971.

"The name of the new building is Bernstein-Bendit Hall. It will house the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center and both names will appear on the university signage along South State Street.

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"This is an important point and one that was very important to the donors in their support for this new facility.

"It also is worth noting that the current William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center is located in an off-campus location. The new location could not be more centrally located, directly across the street from the central-campus Diag and less that a block away from the Michigan Union. This central-campus location is very important to our students."

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Payback for Trump's Bad Mexican Business Deal?

"The first point that Republican hopeful Donald Trump made in his victory speech after winning the April 19 primary in New York was that, as president, he would no longer allow U.S. jobs to be 'sucked out' by Mexico. Obviously, Mexico-bashing still works for him," Andrés Oppenheimer wrote Friday for the Miami Herald.

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"The big question is whether his tirades against Mexico are part of a well-calculated populist campaign to appeal to the xenophobic feelings of angry voters, or whether he has a personal grudge against Mexico because of a bad business experience with a failed luxury condo project near Tijuana in 2009. It’s probably both, but definitely the latter is part of it.

"[Trump] has put Mexico at the center stage of his presidential campaign since day one. On June 16, 2015, he launched his presidential campaign and made world headlines with his claim that most Mexicans are 'rapists' and that they 'bring drugs and crime.' Ever since, Trump has not stopped blaming Mexico for almost everything that is wrong in United States.

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“ 'Our jobs are being sucked out of our states, they are being taken out of our country,' he said in his New York victory speech. He vowed to 'negotiate unbelievable trade deals, so we bring our jobs back, and we don’t let our companies go to Mexico and all of these countries anymore.'

Oppenheimer also wrote, "My opinion: What’s especially troubling about Trump’s Mexico-bashing — and perhaps his entire foreign policy — is that it’s not be based on what’s good for the country, but may be shaped by his business experiences. . . ."

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Charles M. Blow, New York Times: What Is Sanders’s Endgame?

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: New York douses the Bern

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: John Kasich can take on Hillary Clinton. Here’s why.

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Nolan Finley, Detroit News: Editor’s Note: Clinton is gone, and Flint forgotten

Adrian Florido, NPR "Code Switch": Racial Awakening, Pride And Fear: One Latino Perspective On 'The Obama Effect'

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Gromer Jeffers Jr., Dallas Morning News: Electing a president is an undemocratic part of democracy

Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton & urban issues: It's a myth that the concerns of cities have not been front and center in thepresidential campaign

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Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Republican convention seeks faces of Cleveland, ironically

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Latinos may have to hold their nose at the ballot box

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Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: The 2 race cards that still haunt us

Mark Trahant, Trahant Reports: #NativeVote16 – Little dollars could turn the world of politics upside down

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Bill Wyman, Columbia Journalism Review: The Media vs. Trump story that’s been overlooked: Freedom of Speech

Nominate a J-Educator Who Promotes Diversity

The Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers, annually grants a Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship — actually an award — "in recognition of an educator's outstanding efforts to encourage minority students in the field of journalism." The educator should be at the college level.

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Nominations, now being accepted for the 2016 award, should consist of a statement about why you believe your nominee is deserving. The final selection will be made by the AOJ Foundation board and announced later this year, when the presentation will be made.

Since 2000, the recipient has been awarded an honorarium of $1,000 to be used to "further work in progress or begin a new project."

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Past winners include James Hawkins, Florida A&M University (1990); Larry Kaggwa, Howard University (1992); Ben Holman, University of Maryland (1996); Linda Jones, Roosevelt University, Chicago (1998); Ramon Chavez, University of Colorado, Boulder (1999); Erna Smith, San Francisco State (2000); Joseph Selden, Penn State University (2001); Cheryl Smith, Paul Quinn College (2002); Rose Richard, Marquette University (2003).

Also, Leara D. Rhodes, University of Georgia (2004); Denny McAuliffe, University of Montana (2005); Pearl Stewart, Black College Wire (2006); Valerie White, Florida A&M University (2007); Phillip Dixon, Howard University (2008); Bruce DePyssler, North Carolina Central University (2009); Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University (2010); Yvonne Latty, New York University (2011); Michelle Johnson, Boston University (2012); Vanessa Shelton, University of Iowa (2013); William Drummond, University of California at Berkeley (2014); and Julian Rodriguez of the University of Texas at Arlington (2015) (video).

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Nominations may be emailed to Richard Prince, AOJ Diversity Committee chair, richardprince (at)hotmail.com. The deadline is May 20. Please use that address only for AOJ matters.

Short Takes

"Bay Area News Group is laying off 11 copy desk staffers 'rather than cutting more deeply into the ranks of content producers or neglecting our digital needs,' says a memo from James 'Bert' Robinson, managing editor/content," Jim Romenesko reported Friday on his media site.

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"Pittsburgh reporter Harold Hayes is retiring from KDKA after 37 years," Kevin Eck reported Thursday for TVSpy. "Hayes started at the Pittsburgh CBS affiliate in 1979 as a general assignment reporter. He started his broadcast career as the staff announcer for WSIV radio in Perkin, Illinois. A year later, he went to work at WRAU (now WHOI) in Peoria, Illinois and worked there as . . . weekend anchor, producer and reporter until he took the job at KDKA. . . ."

Juana Summers, laid off this month as political editor of Mashable as part of a shift to video, starts at CNN Politics on Monday as an editor.

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"Al Jazeera America may have shut down last week but that has not protected the network from further unwelcome news," John Koblin reported Friday for the New York Times. "The network’s executive vice president of finance, Anand Gupta, filed a lawsuit on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan asserting that he had not been given a promised promotion and salary raise because of racial discrimination. . . . In the network’s first year on the air in 2013, the suit asserts, citing tax returns, it had a net operating loss of $250 million, and in 2014 it lost an additional $335 million. . . ."

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting "is looking for a consultant to help public radio’s African-American stations improve audience service, become more sustainable and find ways to work together," Tyler Falk reported Monday for current.org.

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"Commenters flooded the FCC Friday, the deadline for initial input on Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to 'unlock' MVPD set-top box info and share it with third-party navigation devices," John Eggerton reported for Multichannel News.

"It didn't take a psychology experiment to persuade University of Montana researcher Justin Angle that American Indian sports mascots are offensive," Derek Brouwer reported Thursday for the Missoula (Mont.) Independent. He also wrote, "Using a mix of lab experiments and a field study, Angle's research yielded a sobering, if straightforward, result: the mascots do strengthen stereotypes about Native people. . . ."

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince at journal-isms-owner@yahoogroups.com.

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