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Isabel Wilkerson Cites "Miscommunication," Will Take Leave

"Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned author Isabel Wilkerson has not fulfilled her requirements as a College of Communication professor and a member of the Boston University faculty-in-residence program despite her relatively high professor's salary and other benefits, BU students and faculty said," Steph Solis reported Monday for the Daily Free Press at Boston University.


"The issues this semester regarding Wilkerson began when she started canceling classes to promote 'The Warmth of Other Suns,' an acclaimed book about the Great Migration of African Americans in the 20th century, students said. Wilkerson began to cancel classes two weeks into the semester to attend these engagements."

Wilkerson had this response for Journal-isms:

"The comments made do not represent my experiences. I deeply value my affiliation and teaching position at Boston University and what I've been able to do there. The situation stemmed from a miscommunication about an internal logistics issue that ideally would not have happened. I feel empathy for students who were inadvertently caught up in an internal logistics issue. To forestall potential scheduling conflicts, I will be taking a leave of absence in spring 2012."


The story continued:

"In an Oct. 13 email sent to her newswriting students, Wilkerson said she would not be teaching her class for several weeks 'due to a scheduling conflict.' Wilkerson never returned.


" 'Little did any of us know that she would be leaving for the rest of the semester,' said Alessandra Martinez, a COM [College of Communication] sophomore. 'I know that I was upset when I heard her leave, but became frustrated when I realized she wasn't coming back.'

"COM officials acknowledged the inconvenience of the situation and blamed the circumstances on a miscommunication.


" 'We knew it was a bad situation for the students because when "professor A" has a certain style and 'professor B' has a different one,' said Bill McKeen, chair of the journalism department, in an interview.

"While it is not uncommon for professors to take time off to focus on their books, McKeen said most declare leaves at the beginning or end of a semester. Most professors, he said, achieve the balance of publishing successful books while fulfilling their responsibilities in the classroom."


Wilkerson won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for her feature writing at the New York Times. She began teaching at Boston University in 2009, charged with "creating an area of distinction" at the university "for. . . narrative long-form journalism," COM Dean Thomas Fiedler, former executive editor at the Miami Herald, said at the time.

"The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration," won the National Book Critics Award for nonfiction, among other honors, and was among the books that President Obama took with him in August on his family vacation in Martha's Vineyard.


Davan Maharaj Named Editor of Los Angeles Times

Managing Editor Davan Maharaj, a Trinidadian whose great-grandparents came from northern India, will assume the top newsroom job at the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper announced on Tuesday.


Russ Stanton will step down as the editor and executive vice president on Dec. 23, Christopher Goffard reported.

"Maharaj, 49, will become the paper's 15th editor. He is a native of Trinidad with a political science degree from the University of Tennessee and a master's degree in law from Yale.


"Maharaj has worked at the paper for 22 years, with stints in Orange County, Los Angeles and East Africa.

"His six-part series 'Living on Pennies,' which explored extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, won the 2005 Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing, and his 2006 investigation into the dubious practices of a Leisure World probate attorney prompted changes in California law.


"Maharaj worked as an assistant foreign editor and became Business editor in 2007, emphasizing greater coverage of consumer issues and personal finance. He has been managing editor for news since May 2008, with responsibility for the foreign, national, metro, sports and business staffs.

" 'I am humbled and honored to lead one of the most talented and resilient newsrooms in the nation,' Maharaj said. 'We've made huge strides in getting our journalism to wide and diverse audiences across Southern California and beyond. We will continue to push forward, especially in the digital and mobile space. Our commitment to delivering high-quality journalism remains unwavering.' "


In a 2008 speech to Caribbean members of the media, Maharaj spoke of his beginnings in Trinidad, where he worked for the Trinidad Express:

"In the last decade, we've heard a lot about the wonders of globalization. But many of us here know that long before globalization became vogue, it was having its first run in small theaters like Trinidad," he said. "People of the various continents were learning to live, negotiate and work out their differences.


". . . Standing here tonight, you might be asking yourself: How did this guy become managing editor of the LA Times. Believe me, I hear that a lot especially when I dole out assignments to some of my reporters and editors.

"I have to admit that I'm not your typical news executive. Simply because you cant take the Caribbean out of me. And during tough times, I like to employ what I call Trini management style. That means working the newsroom, playing some practical jokes, doing a lot of talking and laughing, and yes, breaking out the fine rum when I need to.

"Journalism is a tough business, particularly the high end journalism that we do at The Times — trying to cover two wars, the devastating economic meltdown and the most interesting presidential election campaign in anyone's memory. But rule one of the Trini management book is it must be fun. And most of all, it's got to be meaningful and in the public service. One of my editors jokes that she needs subtitles to understand me. (I remind her that we live in a state with a governor named Arnold Schwarzenegger and a state that's about to vote overwhelmingly for a guy with the name Barack Obama.) But one thing, she and my entire staff understand are my values and beliefs in quality jopurnalism." [Added Dec. 13]


Geraldo Rivera to Host His First Daily Radio Show

Geraldo Rivera will begin broadcasting a daily Monday-Friday live and local radio show on New York's WABC Radio beginning Jan. 3, Cumulus Media, the station's owner, announced on Monday.


"An iconic personality best known by his first name, Rivera's show will be titled 'GERALDO' and will focus on the day's biggest and most talked-about topics — ranging from national politics to shocking crimes to social issues. The show will include listener calls, with emphasis on the kind of intelligent, energetic and controversial talk that Rivera is known for worldwide," a news release said.

"Rivera will continue hosting his Sunday prime time show on Fox News, where he will also remain a frequent contributor to weekday programming throughout the day and during prime time.


"The tagline of the show, Rivera's first on the radio, will reflect his dedication to patriotism and candid discourse — 'Not Red. Not Blue. But Red, White & Blue.' "

* Brian Stelter, New York Times: Geraldo Rivera Gets Talk Deal on WABC Radio (Dec. 11)


Saturday's GOP Debate Was Most Watched This Season

"The second broadcast debate of the 2012 Presidential primary cycle," on ABC-TV Saturday night, "has become the most-watched debate yet, being viewed by 7.58 million total viewers and 2.10 million viewers in the key adults 25-54 demo," Alex Weprin wrote Monday for TVNewser.


"By comparison, the first broadcast debate of the cycle ran on CBS last month, and drew 5.5 million viewers and 1.5 million demo viewers.

"The ABC debate topped the September 22 Fox News debate and the September 7 MSNBC debate to become the most watched debate in both total and demo viewers, respectively."


* Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: One tough cookie

* Henry Blodget, Finally, A Rich American Destroys The Fiction That Rich People Create The Jobs


* Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Gingrich's language barrier

* Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Poverty: Gingrich's dual personality

* Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Republicans' reality TV politics

* Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Ron Paul outpacing Rick Perry in staying on point


* Mark Trahant, Payroll tax debate matters in Indian Country

* Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times: Here's hoping Newt's finally right

* John Ydstie, NPR: The State Of The Long-Term Unemployed

D.C. Buzzes With Social Events as Holidays Approach

About 800 people helped Howard University's WHUR-FM celebrate its 40th anniversary Saturday in a weekend filled with media-related social events at the White House and elsewhere in and around the nation's capital.


President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama held the second of two holiday parties for the media Friday at the White House, about 60 people gathered for a holiday party held Friday by a journalists roundtable (whose members include this columnist); another 40 met Saturday at the home of Rodney and Sheila Brooks in honor of Gregory H. Lee Jr., recently elected president of the National Association of Black Journalists; and the Foxtrappe Towne Club, a favorite gathering spot for twentysomething black professionals from 1975 to 1986, held a sold-out reunion Saturday attracting nearly 400 people.

The Associated Press' Sonya Ross, a former White House correspondent, posted on an AP Facebook page Saturday: "Little known AP intern history fact: Meet intern alums Sonya Ross and Darlene Superville, AP's only black female White House correspondents ever. Last night we were in the White House at the same time. A photo HAD to go down."


She told Journal-isms, "It felt like old home week. I saw several colleagues from my days on the beat."

Members of the media were invited to bring children and other family members for Open House tours at the White House, and several did so.


One was April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Her 9 year-old daughter, Ryan James, presented the president with about seven dollars. "She did it on her own as she kept hearing stories about the national debt. She started recycling cans and made the money that way," her mom told Journal-isms.

The WHUR event was held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Conference Center at National Harbor in nearby Prince George's County, Md., and featured recording artists Will Downing, George Duke, Lalah Hathaway, Maysa and Fred Hammond, among others.


WHUR debuted on Dec. 10, 1971, a donation from the Washington Post. It became one of the country's first black-oriented FM stations. "So many people have been instrumental in the accomplishments of WHUR. The 40th anniversary celebration is just our way of saying thank you to those persons who have given of their time and talents over the years," said Jim Watkins, WHUR Radio Network general manager, in a news release.

The journalists roundtable holiday party took place at the Washington home of Anita and Paul Delaney, the latter a former senior editor at the New York Times.


Three authors discussed their new books: Joseph Torres, co-author with Juan Gonzalez of "News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media"; Amy Alexander, author of "Uncovering Race: A Black Journalist's Story of Reporting and Reinvention"; and Harriet A. Washington, who wrote "Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself — and the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future."

Angela Dodson, another Times alum, and Dorothy Gilliam, who at George Washington University directs the Prime Movers Media  program for high school journalists, told of a book project in which leading journalists will write about the heroic efforts of black journalists, many of them unsung, to cover the civil rights movement.


Sheila Brooks said the party at her Silver Spring, Md., home continued a tradition of welcoming new NABJ presidents and introducing younger journalists to them. Among the guests were former NABJ board members Arthur Fennell, Jackie Greene, Roland S. Martin, Vanessa Williams and Jackie Jones, as well as Ruth Allen Ollison, a broadcaster about to be inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame, Howard journalism professor Clint Wilson and Virgil Smith, vice president talent acquisition and diversity at Gannett Co., Inc. Both Brookses are former NABJ board members.

Hazed Himself, Columnist Decries "Conspiracy of Silence"

New York Times op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow told readers about his own hazing experience Saturday in the wake of the death of Robert Champion, a drum major for Florida A&M University's famous marching band.


"I know this behavior well because I was once a willing participant," Blow, a 1992 magna cum laude graduate of Grambling State University, wrote. "I was first paddled when I pledged a fraternity in college. It was one of our first meetings as a pledge group and the brothers were working their way through a line of us from shortest to tallest. Eventually they got to me. No. 13.

"I moved to the center of the room and assumed the position. I stared straight ahead. I tried to brace myself for the blow, but nothing could have prepared me.



"The force of the impact nearly knocked me over. I rose on my toes to keep from falling forward. The pain of it crackled through my thin body. My vision blurred. The sound in the room grew muted as if I was listening from underwater. My temples throbbed. My nostrils flared. My nose ran and my eyes watered despite my best efforts to prevent it. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead. I was on fire. My body demanded that I scream, run, cry, do something. But I knew that I could do nothing. I stood firm.


" 'Thanks — may I have another?' "

Blow concluded, "When I view what we did with a mature mind and enlightened eyes, it seems insane. But, in the moment, as a young man, it seemed to be a perfectly reasonable rite of passage. And that is the attitude that must be changed. It's not reasonable. It's ridiculous.


"We must end the 'conspiracy of silence.'"

* Jemele Hill, ESPN: Consider long ban for Marching 100 (Nov. 30)

* Robert E. Pierre, Washington Post: FAMU band director threatens legal action over hazing (Nov. 26)


* Clarece Polke, Washington Post: FAMU Editor-in-Chief talks hazing

* Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: FAMU hazing death heightens parental worries

* Tonyaa Weathersbee, Who Should Be Blamed for Hazing? Students (Nov. 30)


Jose Antonio Vargas Escorted Out of Mitt Romney Rally

"Jose Antonio Vargas, the Filipino journalist and former Washington Post reporter who has written about his life as an undocumented immigrant, was escorted out of a Mitt Romney rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Friday," Dylan Stableford wrote on his "The Cutline" blog for


"Security personnel removed Vargas — who showed up at the event with a homemade sign that read 'I AM AN AMERICAN W/O PAPERS' - because he did not have a press credential during a media-only session, the Romney campaign said.

"According to CNN producer Rachel Streitfeld, who was at the event, Vargas was 'causing a bit of a ruckus' with his sign. National Journal political correspondent Beth Reinhard, who was also there, said it appeared that Vargas showed up to pick a fight on immigration. Vargas, however, disputed their claims."


Meanwhile, an Associated Press-sponsored chat about its Stylebook on Twitter (#APStyleChat) Monday was dominated by postings urging the AP to drop use of the word "illegal" as a modifier for "immigrant." Others pushed back against this "political correctness."

Sharpton Parodied on "SNL"; Money Problems Denied

"Al Sharpton and his MSNBC show 'PoliticsNation'were the subject of a Saturday Night Live parody this weekend," the Huffington Post reported. "SNL's Kenan Thompson played Sharpton and mocked the anchor's hosting abilities.


"Thompson opened the sketch by facing the wrong camera, a move which he repeated throughout the fake segment. 'There are red lights everywhere!' Thompson said when he was told to look at the camera with the red light."

[Sharpton told Journal-isms on Tuesday that he thought the parody was funny. In return, "I did a whole parody on them last night," he said, noting that he had been on "Saturday Night Live" himself and knows Thompson.]


Meanwhile, Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein reported in the New York Post, "Sharpton's nonprofit paid him nearly $242,000 - even as it carried $1.6 million in debt, according to documents obtained by The Post.

"In all, the controversial activist and his empire, including the National Action Network and two for-profit companies, were $5.3 million in the red, public records show.


"Most of NAN's money woes stemmed from more than $880,000 in unpaid federal payroll taxes, interest and penalties. It also paid more than $100,000 to settle two lawsuits, byproducts of the unpaid bills."

[Sharpton told Journal-isms on Tuesday that the New York Post story was based on forms filed for Dec. 31, 2010, and that the debt has since been paid. He called the reporting "insane" because there was a subsequent annual meeting of National Action Network that the Post could have reported. NAN raised money at its annual convention and with the network's Triumph Awards, held at Lincoln Center, he said. News Corporation, which owns the Post, was a sponsor, Sharpton said.


[The activist also said he had made good on his promise to diversify the staff producing "PoliticNation," with two African Americans on the seven-person staff. He said he expects to add a Latino.] [Updated Dec. 13]

"Slavery by Another Name" in PBS Black History Lineup

"Well … it's just 2 months away, so get your pom-poms ready! :)" Tambay wrote Thursday for the Shadow and Act blog "On Cinema of the African Diaspora."


"New specials include a story of the Underground Railroad and, from Independent Lens, the documentary,' Daisy Bates: The First Lady of Little Rock' (which tells the story of black feminist Daisy Bates and her public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas), a collection of interviews from 'Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975' (I wonder if they'll include those that were left on the cutting room floor), and a filmmaker's cross country campaign to end Black History Month in 'More Than a Month.'

"The schedule also features 2012 Sundance Film Festival selection 'Slavery By Another Name,' as already noted in a previous post, and an American Masters profile of Cab Calloway."


"Slavery by Another Name" premieres Feb. 13. "A Sundance Film Festival selection for 2012, this new documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal senior writer Douglas A. Blackmon examines the concept of 'neoslavery,' which sentenced African-Americans in the post-Emancipation South to forced labor for violating an array of laws that criminalized their everyday behavior. Award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne narrates the film."

Short Takes

* "The time has come to vote for your favorite New U 2011 fellow(s); all of the entrepreneurs of color you'll see pitching in the videos below are hoping to win a $10,000 seed grant to continue to fund their company," Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc. announces. ". . . Voting is open to the public, and there are no restrictions. The window to vote is now and continues through midnight on January 3, 2012."


* "The website affiliated with The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV reports that 165 people are being notified that they'll lose their jobs at the Tribune, its affiliated community newspapers, and," Steve Myers reported Monday for the Poynter Institute. Among them is Loren Omoto, managing editor of, who wrote on Facebook: "In the grand tradition of 'revenue enhancement,' ''sanitation engineering' and 'celebration of life,' I'm now embarked on my next 'life stage transition.' "

* Perry Bacon Jr., who joined the Washington Post political staff from Time magazine in 2007, is leaving the Post to become political editor of NBC's and a contributor to MSNBC. "He has traveled the country for us, and written about the forces that have shaped the political landscape in the era of Obama. Perry has covered Congress, the White House and, most recently, the Republican presidential race," editors told Post staffers on Tuesday. In the NBC announcement, Executive Editor David Wilson said, "Perry's move to represents a big step in the growth of the site and our commitment to 2012 election coverage. This election cycle is a major story for African American news consumers, and is building out its political reporting capabilities to meet these needs."


* "Andrea Ospina has been promoted to News Director for Telemundo Arizona, effective immediately. She will report directly to GM Araceli de León," Veronica Villafañe reported for Media Moves. "She replaces Julio Cisneros, who left the station on November 18, after barely 7 months as news director."

* "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention" by the late Manning Marable was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2011 by the New York Times Book Review. "From petty criminal to drug user to prisoner to minister to separatist to humanist to martyr. Marable, who worked for more than a decade on the book and died earlier this year, offers a more complete and unvarnished portrait of Malcolm X than the one found in his autobiography. The story remains inspiring," the book review said.


* Louis Montclair, "a reporter for the Fort Peck Journal, is among those convinced that Barry Beach was wrongly imprisoned for the killing of Kim Nees in 1979 when both were teenagers living in Poplar. Montclair backs up that position with newspaper stories laying out information that supports that view," Gwen Florio wrote Sunday for the Missoulian in Montana. Some consider Montclair a troublemaker. ". . . On Thursday night, just before Montclair went to sleep, his cellphone started buzzing with text messages. 'They said they were going to have someone beat me up and rape me.' "

* "Lowe's Home Improvement has found itself facing a backlash after the retail giant pulled ads from a reality show about American Muslims," Christopher Weber wrote Monday for the Associated Press. "The retail giant stopped advertising on TLC's 'All-American Muslim' after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained, saying the program was 'propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.' "


* Reporter Michael J. Feeney's election as president of the New York Association of Black Journalists earned him a story by Nicholas Hirshon in the Daily News, for which Feeney, 28, covers upper Manhattan.

* In California, "Noticias Univision Costa Central, Santa Maria's only Spanish-language local television newscast, is scheduled to go off the air December 15th," Veronica Villafañe reported in Media Moves. "The station serves 230,000 Latino households in the Central Coast. Even though in 2010 it had the highest ratings of any news program on the Central Coast, beating perennial winner KEYT, it has been losing money for three years."


* "Yesterday Vogue magazine announced the launch of its complete digital archive - every page from every issue since 1892," Julee Wilson wrote Friday for HuffPost BlackVoices. ". . . In the spirit of looking back, we decided to do some archival digging ourselves and attempted to compile every American Vogue issue that has featured a black cover model (minus the mixed group shots). And it all started with Beverly Johnson in 1974. Let us know if we missed any. . . ."

* Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner was scheduled for hip surgery on Friday. "After the operation, I travel to Jamaica to recover and rehab for two weeks at an awesome private villa, surrounded by family, friends and a physical therapist," Joyner wrote Dec. 5 on his blog. "I'll be back in the big chair on Monday, Jan. 2. I will be on a walker for a while, and then a cane. After about six weeks, I'll be ready to party full tilt. Skip Murphy will be in the big chair, with Sybil and J., while I'm gone. . . . "


* "Convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal said Monday that he was surprised and somewhat disappointed that he did not get a new sentencing hearing in the racially charged murder case that had kept him on death row for nearly 30 years," Kathy Matheson reported Monday for the Associated Press. "Last week's decision by prosecutors to drop their bid for capital punishment meant Abu-Jamal received an automatic life term. He said in a phone call to supporters that he had already been moved off death row to a new cell in the western Pennsylvania prison where he is incarcerated."

* ". . . Sunday, we presented the prototype for the Cost of Freedom App," Faye Anderson wrote Dec. 5 on her blog. "Developed by Joe Tricarico, John Campbell, Maneesha Sane and yours truly, the location-based web app will provide voters with the information they need to apply for a voter ID." She told Journal-isms, "In addition, we will gather data to help journalists contextualize and visualize their stories about voter IDs."


* "Journalists in Honduras are facing growing danger, the country's human rights commissioner has warned," the BBC reported on Thursday. "Ramon Custodio was speaking to the Spanish news agency, Efe, a day after a radio host was shot dead. Luz Marina Paz was the 17th media worker to be killed in Honduras over the past couple of years, rights groups say. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world: 82 killings per 100,000 people, according to the UN."

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