If financing arrangements succeed, Heart & Soul, a health-and-fitness magazine targeting black women, will be acquired by what would be its sixth owner in its 23 years — a group that includes veteran journalist George E. Curry and his former associates at Black Entertainment Television and the iconic Emerge magazine of the 1990s.
In a notice to prospective writers, Curry said in August, "We're to switch it from a Black women publication to one for all women of color … " and said he was looking for editors. Circumstances have changed since the note was written, and indications are that the editors already have been hired.
The top editors would replace the editorial team of Yanick Rice Lamb, the veteran journalist who is associate publisher and editorial director, and Kendra Lee, executive editor. Lamb resigned as editorial director and is remaining as editor at large and consultant. Curry said Lee would remain in the same capacity.
"I can confirm that our company, Brown, Curry, Detry, Taylor Associates LLC, has agreed to purchase the assets of Heart & Soul Enterprises, LLC and that we expect to finalize the deal within the next few weeks," Clarence Brown, president and CEO of Brown, Curry, Detry, Taylor Associates, LLC, said in a statement to Journal-isms.
"At the request of the current owner, we have begun integrating our team into the editorial and business operations." Brown is ad sales manager for the American Psychological Association and ran the magazine division of BET while Curry was editing Emerge, then part of the BET operation. Curry has written that he relied on Brown, his associate publisher at Emerge, to "handle the production end."
Other principals include Patrick H. Detry of Patrick H. Detry & Associates, LLC, a former director of ad sales at BET, and Pamela Taylor, who owns her own marketing firm, the MAP Group, in Chicago.
If the deal goes through, the new owners have promised to compensate a group of angry writers who say they are owed more than $200,000 in back pay.
"Some of the contributors have not been paid since January 2011," some of the writers said in a statement to Journal-isms. "Beginning in July 2011, several were told payments were temporarily delayed because owner, Edwin Avent, was in the process of selling the company."
The writers, who asserted that they represent more than 60 writers and editorial contributors, said they did not want to be identified publicly for fear of retribution. They continued, " … Initially, the acquiring company — headed by journalist George Curry and his three marketing partners, Clarence Brown, Patrick Detry, and Pam Taylor — was to ensure that the transaction gave Avent enough funds to satisfy his debts to writers, editors and other vendors.
"However, according to more recent reports about the deal, Curry and his group, who are already running the magazine, are acquiring the magazine's title and subscription list, leaving the debts on Avent's balance sheet. As of today, no deal has been finalized and the editorial contributors have received no definitive word on when they will be paid. While Avent and Curry claim they cannot pay the writers and editors, Avent has consistently paid his advertising staff on time. They have not missed a single paycheck. And while Curry claims he has no deal, he has now lists himself as editorial director of Heart & Soul."
Shown the statement, Avent told Journal-isms, "Unfortunately the [statement] as it is currently written is inaccurate. No one but the two parties involved in the transaction, Heart & Soul Enterprises, Inc. and BCD&T, know anything about the terms of the deal. The deal is between two private companies so our terms are not for public consumption.
"I just want to say that I remain dedicated to the wonderful editorial, writing and design team that have worked to make Heart & Soul an award winning publication for the past six years. I truly apologize for the delay, but every writer, editor, designer and freelancer will be fully compensated when the deal is consummated."
Brown said in his statement, "As a group of publishing professionals with more than 90 years of combined media experience, we value the important work done previously for the magazine and we are committed to making full restitution to all contributors who have not been paid in 2011. However, we are unable to take any actions until we officially assume ownership."
Avent announced on Oct. 11 that he had resigned as president and publisher of Heart & Soul. At the end of October, the Hollywood Reporter announced, "An ambitious new TV broadcast service targeting African Americans in the southern United States called the Soul of the South Network plans to spend at least $10 million by early next year to launch in at least 50 markets offering entertainment, sports, news and cultural programming."
Avent is chairman of the new network's parent company, SSN Media Group.
The complaining writers also objected to the projected direction for the magazine. "Heart & Soul is the only national magazine focused exclusively on health issues of concern to black women and their families. It has always been written and edited by black women journalists, including many veteran and award-winning writers," they said.
Heart & Soul has survived multiple changes of ownership.
According to Brett Pulley's 2004 book, "The Billion Dollar BET: Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television," " … BET paid about $4 million to purchase a women's health and fitness title, 'Heart & Soul,' from Rodale Publishing. Johnson first learned about the magazine from its founder, Reginald Ware. Ware had sold 80 percent of the equity in Heart & Soul to Rodale in 1992 in exchange for a $5 million investment in the magazine. The four-year-old title was growing rapidly, with revenues increasing 150 percent each year. But then in 1995, Rodale and Ware became entangled in a legal dispute. A string of lawsuits and charges ensued, and during that time Rodale managed to seize Ware's equity stake.
" … in 1998, while Ware was still struggling to fight Rodale in court and hoping to reclaim 'Heart & Soul,' Johnson purchased it from under his nose."
In February 2000, entrepreneur Keith Clinkscales assumed operating control of Emerge, Heart & Soul and the BET Weekend newspaper insert. But Clinkscales' company, Vanguarde Media, went out of business in 2003. The next year, Earl Graves, publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, won Heart & Soul at a bankruptcy court auction for $450,000, plus its liabilities, But Graves quickly changed his mind, and the magazine went to the second-highest bidder. That was Avent, part-owner of Twenty First Century Group, Inc., a small Baltimore publishing and advertising firm.
Avent bought the magazine, with a circulation then of 400,000, for $60,000 plus $450,000 in assumed subscriber debt, the Baltimore Sun reported at the time.
He told Journal-isms that the magazine, published six times a year, now has a circulation of 300,000. The asking price has not been disclosed.
Curry told Journal-isms the new venture does not affect his plans to revive Emerge, a magazine of the black politics, life and culture of the 1990s. He said in October that he will try to bring back the magazine if he can get 100,000 interested readers.
"Terrence Malick's non-linear existential meditation on family, 'The Tree of Life,' earned another accolade yesterday as the African-American Film Critics Association named it their selection for Best Picture of 2011," Scott Harris wrote Tuesday for the nextmovie.com.
"In other major categories, 'The Help' and the independent film 'Pariah' led the way with two wins each, with 'The Help's' Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer winning Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. 'Pariah' took home the award for Best Independent Film, while star Adepero Oduye won for breakout performance.
"Meanwhile, Albert Brooks continued to build Oscar momentum, winning the award for Best Supporting Actor for his villainous turn in 'Drive.' Woody Harrelson took top honors in the Best Actor category for an even more villainous performance as a corrupt L.A. cop in 'Rampart,' while Malick was surprisingly stoned in the Best Director category; despite the singular vision of 'Tree of Life,' the AAFCA bestowed the award on Steve McQueen for his decidedly adult sex drama 'Shame.' "
The Los Angeles Times listed winners in each category, along with links to Times coverage of the films.
"AAFCA's Special Achievement Awards for career achievement went to Richard Roundtree, Hattie Winston, George Lucas and Sony Pictures Entertainment," the organization said. The honors are to be presented Jan. 8, 2012, at the Light Space Studio at the historic Helms Bakery in Culver City, Calif.
"If I Were A Poor Black Kid," an essay by a white, self-described "short, balding and mediocre certified public accountant," went viral and prompted rebuttals and denunciations throughout social media this week.
"If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible," Gene Marks wrote on forbes.com. "I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn't care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. . . ."
The article had been viewed 332,296 times since its publication Monday morning, Forbes spokeswoman Alexandra Talty told Journal-isms on Wednesday. It ranked at the top of the "Most Popular" list on the site.
But was it deliberately offensive? A Forbes writer raised that possibility.
"This week, Forbes contributor Gene Marks wrote a story titled 'If I Were A Poor Black Kid.' As soon as I saw the title, I groaned," Kashmir Hill wrote on Wednesday. " 'This is going to be offensive,' I thought. And it was. There have been many responses around the Web, including this and this and this and this and this and this and this.
"In addition to staff writers (of which I am one), Forbes has a stable of 850+ writers who are 'contributors' - they get a little special tag on their pages that says, 'The opinions expressed are those of the writer.' Forbes pays these folks for the unique visitors and repeat visitors they attract. They are recruited based on their professional track records and journalism expertise, and editors don't usually see or approve of their posts in advance. Does having a payment model that rewards controversy encourage writers to bait readers with offensive material?
" … Gene Marks has proved to be pretty awesome at trolling the Internet. He wrote a post shortly after Steve Jobs's death about how he was a jerk, and another about how most women will never become CEOs. Like his current post, these produced a lot of outrage - and also a lot of traffic."
* ABL, Angry Black Lady Chronicles: "If I Were a Poor Black Kid…"
* Wayne Bennett, Field Negro: Listen up poor black children! A rich white man has some advice for you.
* Baratunde Thurston, CNN "In America": Letter from a poor black kid: Baratunde Thurston responds to Forbes' Gene Marks
* Kelly Virella, Dominion New York: If I Were The Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks
* Jeff Yang, WNYC Radio, New York: If I Were a Rich White Dude
"Another company has pulled its ads from TLC's controversial docu-series 'All-American Muslim,' saying it did so because TLC 'was not upfront with us about the nature of this show' and was deliberately 'trying to pick a fight' over the series," Lisa de Moraes wrote for Thursday's editions of the Washington Post.
"The online travel company Kayak.com also says that its chief marketing officer watched a couple of episodes and thought they were lousy.
"Kayak.com got swept up in the story about the decision by the giant home-improvement retail chain Lowe's to yank its ads from the series, which is about five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. Lowe's had become the target of a campaign by the conservative Florida Family Association, which said the show is 'propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.' "
" … The series about the five Lebanese American families has found itself the darling of the media and celebrities. Jon Stewart pasted Lowe's on 'The Daily Show,' Mia Farrow and Kal Penn tweeted their support of the series, Russell Simmons offered to buy up remaining ad time on an upcoming episode, blah, blah, blah.
"Viewers, however, seem pretty uninterested in the fracas. 'Fracas' is usually TV-ratings lighter fluid. But only about 908,000 people bothered Sunday to check out the most recent episode, which aired in the eye of the storm."
* B.J. Hammerstein, Detroit Free Press: Russell Simmons: Lowe's wrong to pull ads from 'All-American Muslim'
* Arsalan Iftikhar, CNN: My Take: Is 'All-American Muslim" begetting All-American bigotry?
* Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: A New Lowe in Advertiser Cowardice
* Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: 'All-American Muslim' offers valuable lesson for Americans
Four non-black same-sex couples were pictured in the "Weddings/Celebrations" pages of the New York Times on Sunday, but only one African American couple. However, Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman told Journal-isms, "The suggestion that the inclusion of gay couples comes at the expenseof any racial or ethnic group is simply wrong."
An African American reader had written to Journal-isms:
"I just finished reading the NYTimes wedding section online and was struck by the number of gay profiles (4) to those featuring people of color (0 or 1 if you count the renewals part).
"What is most striking to me about this is that it is an every week occurrence. I know a few weeks ago The Times featured a black lesbian couple, but week in and week out, they have considerably more white gay couples than they do any representation of black or Hispanic couples. While I'm happy they are celebrating gay marriage, I find the disproportionate Caucasian representation to be frustrating. This ultimately is my problem with multiculturalism. People of color seem to get pushed out by white people who are gay or disabled. If The Times wants to give this much coverage to gay couples, they should reduce the number of white straight couples, so that there is room for black couples."
Murphy also said in her reply, "Our Weddings/Celebrations pages are open to everyone. We try to cast as wide a net as possible, though we are generally limited to the pool of people who choose to submit material for publication."
"Two sugar-cane plantation owners from the Dominican Republic must satisfy a higher standard reserved for public figures if they are to prevail in a libel suit against American filmmakers who made a documentary critical of the Caribbean nation's sugar industry, a federal court of appeals has ruled," Chris Healy wrote Tuesday for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
"Juan and Felipe Vicini Lluberes, who are brothers, sued Uncommon Productions for allegedly libelous statements made in the 2007 documentary 'The Price of Sugar,' which criticized the treatment of Haitian laborers in Dominican [sugar cane] plantations. The key issue in the libel case concerns whether the brothers, who spoke to the media about their depiction in the documentary, are private or public figures.
"According to an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (First Circuit) issued in November, Juan and Felipe Vicini Lluberes qualify as limited-purpose public figures. A limited-purpose public figure is private citizen who becomes well-known for a particular issue, but isn't necessarily a household name.
" … 'The Price of Sugar' presents a scathing view of living conditions in the worker-populated plantation villages, called bateyes, according to the district court opinion in the case. These conditions include poor housing, inadequate nutrition and sanitation, and a lack of education for children in the bateyes, the district court wrote. The film focuses in large part on the actions of Father Christopher Hartley, a Catholic priest who has worked to improve living conditions for the workers."
* "Latino USA" with Maria Hinojosa, public radio: The Haitian Immigrant Dilemma in the Dominican Republic
* Jemima Pierre, Black Agenda Report: The Dominican Republic Hates Black People
* Jared McCallister, Daily News, New York: Activist Sonia Pierre was a beacon of hope for Haitians living in the Dominican Republic
* Albor Ruiz, Daily News, New York: Sonia Pierre remembered as a champion of Dominicans of Haitian descent
Thursday is the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights and First Amendment. Ken Paulson, president and CEO of the First Amendment Center and president of the American Society of News Editors, wrote to ASNE members on Wednesday, "Here are three easy things you can do to make a difference:
* 1. Tweet something right now, and whenever you can between now and tomorrow morning. It can be something as simple as 'Tweet for freedom. $110K in scholarships on Thursday, Dec. 15. #freetotweet http://www.freetotweet.org' or 'Easiest scholarship competition ever. $110K available for tweets about First Amendment on Thursday, Dec. 15. #freetotweet http://www.freetotweet.org.'
* 2. Share this message with your most creative social media staffers. Encourage them to spread the word through your social media network and their own personal tweets.
* 3. Consider writing about the 220th anniversary of the First Amendment (and the Bill of Rights) on Dec. 15, and include a link to www.freetotweet.org. We also have an op-ed available here."
* "On 'Hardball' this evening, Chris Matthews apologized for a story that ran in an earlier hour on MSNBC," Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for TVNewser. "During the 11 am ET hour, anchor Thomas Roberts read this short item: 'So you may not hear Mitt Romney say Keep America American anymore, because it was a rallying cry for the KKK group, and intimidation against blacks, gays and Jews … ' "
* "After several months of covering the beat, this morning NBC News has named Kristen Welker White House correspondent," Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for TVNewser. "The announcement comes as NBC announces [its] plans for covering the 2012 primaries and general election including the relaunch of NBCPolitics.com. Welker, who joined NBC News in August 2010, was based in the Los Angeles bureau and began covering the White House when Savannah Guthrie left DC to join the 'Today' show in New York."
* "Univision Interactive Media's Mercador sports app, which delivers real-time soccer scores and stats to iPhone and Android users, was honored at the Mobile Excellence Awards in the 'Business' category for "Best Mobile International," NetNewsCheck reported on Wednesday.
* "A man was arrested for broadcasting gospel and public service announcements! Federal officials say the man who operates radio station 107.5 was doing so without a license," WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, Fla., reported on Tuesday. ". . . But now, it has been shut down after its operator, Al Knighten, was arrested for illegally broadcasting shows and music." Ron Jenkins, chairman of the Fort Myers Citizens Police Review Board, hosted a show on the station and said he was proud of it. " 'Our community has to be educated. We have to have the opportunity to speak to one another. Otherwise, it's going to be business as usual,' said Jenkins. 'The FCC and local media outlets were not doing their job representing our community. Our community has been stymied and hasn't been able to grow for decades because we haven't been able to talk to one another.' "
* "Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller of the Wall Street Journal will receive the Feddie, given for work showing the impact of Washington rules and regulations outside the Beltway," the National Press Foundation announced. "In a series called, 'Federal Offenses,' they showed how little-known laws can snare the unwary - such as the father and son who were arrested and fined for trying to find (but not finding) arrowheads on federal land." The awards are to be presented at the 29th annual NPF Awards Dinner on March 7, 2012, in Washington.
* "Telemundo Media has named Manuel Abud President of the Telemundo Station Group. Effective Jan. 1, Abud will report to Emilio Romano, president, Telemundo Media," TVNewsCheck reported on Tuesday. ". . . A long-time Telemundo executive, Abud will be responsible for leading the Telemundo stations 'with a hyper focus on localism through developing and producing local content, strengthening the stations' commitment to their local community and ensuring local advertisers benefit from the best value in the market,' Telemundo said."
* "Police detained a Haitian journalist who tried to take photos of Oprah Winfrey as she visited an encampment of citizens displaced by the 2010 earthquake," the Associated Press reported on Monday. "An Associated Press journalist on Monday saw a guard drag a Haitian photographer into a small police station at the camp. Police refused to let the photographer leave unless he erased his camera memory card. A senior police inspector arrived about 90 minutes later and ordered the photographer released. Winfrey spokesman Chance Patterson later said the guard didn't realize the man detained Monday was a journalist."
* "Let's make a reluctant Barry Saunders wear a Santa suit!" the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., said of its local columnist on Monday. "If readers donate $25,000 in money and goods by Dec. 17 to the charities listed in our Guide to Giving, an N&O photographer will be available to take pictures of those who come to see 'Santa Saunders' at The N&O on Dec. 21. We'll post the pictures on our site."
* It's not just in the United States that some complain about the quality of radio news. "Radio newsrooms generally consist of a small team, barely enough to keep the bulletins on air the required 12 to 15 times a day," Franz Kruger wrote Monday for the Media Online in South Africa. "To feed the hourly beast, they can't do much more than rework material from the wire agencies and clip a bit of audio from one of the 24-hour TV news channels. . . . The matrix of different kinds of radio stations should provide a rich diversity of news, discussion and information. But it's not happening. Listeners to Ukhozi and to UJFM, to Jozi and to Jacaranda FM get much the same stuff: it's a 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am' kind of journalism that's fast but unsatisfying."
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.