Journalist John Quinn, Who Insisted on Diversity, Dies

  • Gannett Exec Boosted Students, Journalists of Color
  • NABJ Awards Thumbs Down to Ebony, Fox News
  • Dana Canedy Named Pulitzer Administrator
  • Rochelle Riley to Receive Ida B. Wells Award
  • Urban Uprisings Helped to Change Newsrooms
  • Dow Jones to Tackle Gender Issue Now, Race Later
  • Short Takes
Standing from left: Wendy Isom, Nealy Gihan, John Quinn, Manny Lopez, Sue Stock and Getahn Ward. Kneeling: Cris Viola and Kristen Go. (Chips Quinn Scholars Program)

Gannett Exec Boosted Students, Journalists of Color

John C. Quinn, described by one of the editors he supervised as “the conscience of Gannett for many years, having inspired the most aggressive diversity movement of the 20th century,” died Tuesday in Carolina, R.I. He was 91.

The description came from Bennie Ivory, retired top editor at Gannett’s Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. It was echoed by others.

Mark Silverman, former publisher of the Detroit News, called Quinn “clearly one of the most influential and innovative journalists of his generation. He was a true champion of diversity, an articulate voice for quality journalism, and a friend of everyone he recruited or mentored. In a company always racing into the future, John was the voice of quality and of doing the right thing.”


Quinn was top editor of USA Today, president of Gannett News Service and vice president of news at Gannett Co. Inc. before retiring in 1990. He also was a former deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum, as Tyler Vazquez reported Tuesday for Florida Today.

John C. Quinn: “We’ve got a lot of those; we’ve got to have somebody else.”

For legions of journalists of color, Quinn was more.

“It is going to take a while for me to get my thoughts in one space because this remarkable human being taught me that I did not have to be on guard because of my race or gender,” Karen Howze, a former Gannett editor who found a second career as a judge, wrote below Ivory’s post on Facebook. “He always knew the temper of the time and read all so well.


“There are so many conversations where he and his wife relied on those like me but he also puzzled about some of crab in the bucket dynamics that affected all those he championed. . . . He was my boss. My friend a second family member before I left the business and after. . . . He was and will always be the real. . . .”

The first sentence in a tribute Wednesday from Colleen Fitzpatrick at the Newseum Institute wasn’t about his broader accomplishments, but that Quinn and his wife, Lois, “founded one of the premier journalism diversity programs in the country after he retired from a newspaper career. . . .”


“The Chips Quinn Scholars program, named for the couple’s eldest son and funded by the Newseum Institute, has provided training and internships to nearly 1,400 student journalists of color since its founding in 1991.

“ ‘The Chips Quinn program has changed the face and fabric of newsrooms across the country thanks to John and Loie Quinn’s vision and commitment to diversity,’ said Kristen Go, a 1996 and 1997 Scholar,” referring to Lois Quinn by the name she was commonly called. “ ‘The program gave me the confidence in my skills, support to grow as a journalist and the idea to dream big – that one day, I could become a top newsroom editor who could hire other Chips Quinn Scholars.’ ”


Quinn walked the walk on diversity and helped pave the sidewalk.

When USA Today commemorated its 25th anniversary in 2007, Quinn explained to Journal-isms how the newspaper assembled its inaugural staff.


It was a little frustrating,” Quinn said. “Some of my colleagues would say, ‘I know this great person who can do what we want.’ We said, ‘We’ve got a lot of those; we’ve got to have somebody else.’ ” And sometimes that meant going outside Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company, to find them.

The percentage of people of color at USA Today’s founding, Quinn said, exceeded that of the nation as well as the newspaper industry. Of the five managing editors, two were women. At the level below them were two more women and two African Americans. The average age was 30. “More important, we had the talent we needed,” Quinn said.

With his management partner, the late Gannett Co. CEO Allen H. Neuharth, right.

Wanda Lloyd, another retired Gannett editor of color, said then, “USA Today really set the pace for this industry in terms of content diversity. It was perceived by some, including readers, as going too far.


“The paper had a rule that a person of color and a woman had to be on the front page, above the fold, every day.“What that did was, because USA Today’s Page One is kind of a billboard for the rest of the newspaper, it forced the rest of the newspaper to be diverse. You had to have people of color in Life and women in Sports.”

If African Americans did not rise above the deputy managing editor level, Quinn said, they went elsewhere within Gannett to become publishers and editors.


In a USA Today tribute Tuesday, Rick Jervis, a Cuban American from Miami and a 1993 Chips Quinn Scholar, recalled feeling as though he didn’t belong at Freedom Forum headquarters in Arlington, Va., where the program was based.

He was put at ease. Later, he worked at the Miami Herald, where he was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team, then left to freelance in Eastern Europe.


Jervis wrote of Quinn, “I leaned on him for career counseling and overall support. After returning to the U.S., I went and spoke to new Chips Quinn scholarship winners. Each time, Quinn and Loie welcomed me back with hugs, like family members. I was in constant awe at the energy and ambition he instilled in the scholarship winners, the sense of belonging. He memorized names, hometowns, colleges.

“In one of my last communications with him, 12 years ago, I wrote to him to tell him I had accepted a job at USA TODAY, his alma mater. It was probably his proudest of my accomplishments. I still have his hand-written reply.


“Quinn’s passing will be felt in newsrooms across the USA as hundreds of journalists remember the perched glasses and smiles that greeted them during their nerve-racking scholarship run. In today’s age of alternate facts and fake news allegations, his lessons are more pertinent than ever.”

Recalling Quinn’s instructions, Jervis concluded, “We should all remember to pursue the truth, write short, and never forget we belong. Thanks again, John. . . .”


Fitzpatrick, a career coach with the Chips Quinn program since 2000, reported that “The funeral will be held on Saturday, July 15th from the Carolina Mill at 9 a.m. with mass at St. Mary’s Church (437 Carolina Back Road) in Carolina at 10 a.m. Burial will be at White Brook Cemetery in Carolina. (The Carolina Mill is located across the street from 525 Carolina Back Road.)“

Donita Naylor, Providence Journal: John C. Quinn, former Journal editor, a founder of USA Today, dies


Newseum Institute: John C. Quinn Photo Gallery

Ebony’s July issue

NABJ Awards Thumbs Down to Ebony, Fox News

The National Association of Black Journalists has awarded its 2017 Thumbs Down Award to Fox News and to Ebony magazine, it announced Thursday, two days after the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 announced that it is “preparing to go to court after the EBONY Media Organization (EMO) and its parent company, the Clear View Group (CVG) failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to compensate as many as 50 freelance writers who are owed as much as $200,000.”


NABJ said in a news release, “ Ebony magazine, under its new owners Clear View Group, has made headlines this year because of staff cuts; the relocation of its [editorial staff] from its founding base in Chicago to Los Angeles; and, its very public and sometimes offensive responses to reports of late or non-payment for work already performed by staff or freelance journalists. . . .”

It also said, “FOX News was selected for numerous reasons. In addition to lawsuits accusing the cable news network of ‘abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination,’ there have also been allegations of sexual harassment. Additionally, the lack of diversity in key positions, is a major concern for NABJ. . . .” It did not name the key positions.


Michael Gibson, chairman of the CVG Group LLC, which purchased Ebony from Johnson Publishing Co. last year, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did a Fox News spokeswoman.

Dana Canedy Named Pulitzer Administrator

Dana Canedy, a former senior editor at The New York Times, will be the next administrator of journalism’s most prestigious award,” Sydney Ember reported Wednesday for the Times, placing black journalists in the administrator’s as well as the board chairman’s post.


“Columbia University announced on Wednesday that Ms. Canedy would replace Mike Pride as administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, effective Monday. Ms. Canedy — who was part of a Times team that won the 2001 Pulitzer for national reporting for a series about race in America — will help steer the awards process, working with the Pulitzer board on matters like jury selection,” Ember continued. “She is the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position.

“The prizes are announced each April at a ceremony at Columbia.

“ ‘Dana Canedy’s sterling qualifications speak for themselves,’ Eugene Robinson, a columnist for The Washington Post and the chairman of the Pulitzer board, said in a statement. ‘At a time when media organizations are adapting to technologies and the epithet “fake news” is brandished as a weapon, Canedy’s experience, energy, integrity and passion will help the Board focus on its vital mission: identifying and celebrating the best in American journalism and arts and letters.’ . . .”


Rochelle Riley to Receive Ida B. Wells Award

Rochelle Riley, columnist for the Detroit Free Press, will receive the Ida B. Wells Award honoring someone “who has made outstanding efforts to make newsrooms and news coverage more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve,” the National Association of Black Journalists announced Thursday.

Rochelle Riley

The award is bestowed by NABJ and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.


Riley “is the epitome of someone who uses her voice for positive change. Her columns remind news executives, news managers, reporters and producers of the importance of our responsibility to be inclusive and accountable in our coverage,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover.

“Her consistency and assertiveness in her reporting is so necessary. You can be sure what is read in one of her columns will spark a conversation and more importantly lead to some sort of action.”


The release also said, “Rochelle is being recognized for her strong efforts in advocating for press freedom. She has spent 20 years crusading for better lives for children, government accountability, and improved race relations. She also has spent 16 years promoting the need to increase adult literacy, helping to raise nearly $2 million for literacy causes in Michigan. She is the author of ‘The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery’(Wayne State University Press, 2018). She has worked at The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. . . .”

Riley is to be presented with the award at NABJ’s Hall of Fame Luncheon at its convention in New Orleans on Aug 11.


Urban Uprisings Helped to Change Newsrooms

On July 12, 1967, in the wake of a police beating of arrested cab driver John Smith, residents in the city of Newark rioted, Jessica Mazzola and Karen Yi wrote for NJ Advance Media for “The five-day disturbance left 26 people dead, caused $10 million in damage and forever changed the state’s largest city.” It and similar upheaval elsewhere accelerated the desegregation of American newsrooms.


“Fifty years after the riots, NJ Advance Media spoke to experts, current and former city residents, and leaders about whether or not Newark is recovering from the reputation it has earned since then,” the reporters continued. “The following 7-minute recording and narrative is a compilation of only their voices — a collection of quotes from the people who know the city’s history best, and who together, tell the story of stigma and recovery. See who is speaking here. Read and hear all 30 stories here.”

The Star-Ledger, headquartered in Newark, is part of NJ Advance Media. Just before the eruption, Editor Mort Pye assigned three African Americans in the Star-Ledger newsroom, this columnist included, to survey the mood of Newark’s black community, given conflagrations in other cities. The unrest exploded in the middle of our reporting, and a “why the riot happened” piece was published on Sunday.

In 1967, Editor & Publisher reported on efforts by the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., to determine the mood of the black community just prior to disturbances that left 26 dead and more than 700 injured. From left, Ernest Johnston Jr., Charles Dryden and Richard Prince (Star-Ledger)

The Journal-isms author was still a college student, working part-time at the newspaper. Ernest Johnston Jr., the Star-Ledger’s only full-time black reporter and its first, later worked at the New York Post, the Amsterdam News, the Jersey Journal and the National Urban League before his death in 2000 at age 61. Charlie Dryden was a copy aide, then called a “copy boy.” The title was later changed throughout newsrooms to avoid shouting “boy!” at black men who held the job.


In his memoir “Black Is the Color of My TV Tube,” the late New York television journalist Gil Noble wrote about his sudden employment opportunity at New York’s WABC-TV, flagship of the ABC network, Todd Steven Burroughs recalled in 2011 for Black Agenda Report.

Noble made reference to the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission, which shook the news media in 1968 with its declaration that “the journalistic profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training, and promoting Negroes.”

Credit: @RepDonaldPayne/Twitter

‘The mass media had been caught with their zippers down,’ wrote Noble. ‘Red-faced executives scurried about, seeking Blacks for on-air and other job activities. What more logical place to find Black media persons than the so-called soul stations and newspapers? Within a year, many of us found ourselves downtown at major radio and TV stations....None of the stations said we were being hired because of the prescriptions of the Kerner Commission’s report. They all maintained, and they still do, that they are committed to being equal-opportunity companies. If asked about pressure, they would say, ‘What pressure?’ ”


“What is also not mentioned by these employers, but mentioned by Noble and other Black journalists of his generation, is that they were needed for another reason: White journalists, many of whom had never taken the time to cover Black communities adequately, were understandably and correctly getting their tails kicked while trying to cover those that were exploding in 1967 and 1968.

“After a brief tryout, Noble’s hiring by WABC was cinched when he was sent to cover the Newark rebellion. ‘The news director had decided to hire me,’ wrote Noble. ‘I wearily returned home to tell my wife the good news and was acutely aware of the countless brothers and sisters who were still encircled within the National Guard barricades. Their uprising had been at least partially responsible for my new employment.’ When King was assassinated less than a year later, WABC made another decision: he would contribute to a new Sunday program. . . .”


The Kerner report led to training programs for journalists of color and increased hiring.

As reported in this space last week, a panel at the joint convention of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers this fall will discuss “Kerner Commission at 50: What did we get right? What’s next?” at the ASNE-APME-APPM convention in Washington on Oct. 10.


Todd Burroughs, Atlanta Black Star: 50 Years Later, Newark and Detroit Still Feel Tremors from 1967 Rebellions

John Mogk, Crain’s Detroit Business: The riot didn’t cause Detroit’s decline

Errin Haines Whack, Associated Press: Newark riots recall an era echoed by Black Lives Matter


Junius Williams, New Jersey Monthly: The Rebellion in Newark

William Lewis addresses the staff of the Wall Street Journal in 2014 after being named interim CEO of Dow Jones & Co. (Parker Eshelman/Wall Street Journal)

Dow Jones to Tackle Gender Issue Now, Race Later

William Lewis, the chief executive officer of Dow Jones & Co., the parent of The Wall Street Journal, sent out the following to the staff on Monday evening:,” Chris Roush reported Tuesday for Talking Biz News under the headline, “Dow Jones CEO sets target of 40 percent women in executive ranks.”


“Dear Colleague,

“Promoting diversity and championing inclusion is a major priority for Dow Jones as we embark upon an exciting journey through FY18 and beyond. But fine words on diversity need to be matched with firm actions – and this week’s One Thing details my plans to ensure our company recruits, retains and rewards a diverse workforce.


“In the immediate term, I am in the process of hiring a diversity and inclusion specialist to lead, audit and advise on diversity issues across Dow Jones. It is imperative that we both understand our own data and act upon it with reference to the very best of practice. The diversity and inclusion specialist will put in place the infrastructure we need to support our diversity and inclusion efforts. This will feature a Diversity & Inclusion Council, drawn from staff across the company.

“Promoting gender equality within our company will be the critical, initial focus. This is not the limit of our ambition in promoting diversity — rather, it is a starting point. Thanks in part to the cultural diagnostic work, which so many colleagues took part in and that we carried out at the start of the year, I recognize that other areas – such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, flexible working, disability and veteran status — are all issues and opportunities that need to be championed.


“The need, though, to improve the career chances and choices of women is pressing. I am, of course, committed to ensuring pay equity across the company and this process continues, as evidenced by the recently completed second annual review. Analysis showed that an additional 2% of our employees needed further adjustments to their salaries to better align with others in similar roles and at similar levels. This included both men and women and spanned multiple ethnicities. But pay equity is only part of the issue. I will, therefore, also introduce a new Accelerated Management Program for women – initially for 25 candidates drawn from different departments. This program will help develop, coach and mentor individuals to advance and accelerate their careers at Dow Jones and beyond.

“Based on work already underway and the efforts of our new diversity and inclusion expert, I will also set a new, company-wide target of executive-level women for every Dow Jones department. As things stand, I will set this target at 40% initially. This will be the first of a number of diversity goals I will identify.


“To be clear, diversity and inclusion will be fundamental to our future success. We need to draw upon a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and ideas to ensure we stay relevant and responsive to our customers. They are changing — and so must we.”

Short Takes

When a Philadelphia teen was jumped by other teens in May, the photo of the white teen arrested appeared only online, not in the printed Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, columnist Helen Ubiñas wrote Monday. “On the morning the column appeared in both papers, the prejudice poured in — by the hundreds. “’ White hater,’ one guy screamed into my phone. ‘Why not say what we all know, that the scumbags who did this to the white kid are black?’ . . . my goof highlighted the increasingly divisive assumptions people make about each other, a world that’s far from post-racial — and the media’s role in this damaging narrative. . . .” Writing in Philadelphia magazine, Ernest Owens argued Wednesday that the problem is broader. “If Philly is truly serious about combating racism in our communities, the effort should be led by those who are the most impacted by it — people of color, and black people in particular, who have more to bring to the table than late government responses and redundant editorial apologies. . . .”

Shirley Carswell

Shirley Carswell, a lecturer at the Howard University Cathy Hughes School of Communications and formerly deputy managing editor at the Washington Post, is serving as interim executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists, NABJ President Sarah Glover confirmed on Thursday. “We are excited to have her onboard. She brings a wealth of expertise as a newsroom executive, former Washington Post deputy managing editor and Howard University professor,” Glover said by email. NABJ announced June 22 it was seeking an executive director. Darryl R. Matthews Sr. was let go in October 2015 amid cost-cutting moves. Carswell is also a former treasurer of the Washington Association of Black Journalists.


Felicia Thomas-Lynn, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who left the paper in 2008, died Monday after a battle with cancer, James E. Causey reported Thursday for the Journal Sentinel. She was 52. “Most of us remember her as a small, southern Energizer bunny, who carried a small container of Red Dot hot sauce in her purse,” Causey wrote. “Thomas-Lynn wouldn’t bite her tongue when it came to expressing her opinion on news coverage, and this assertiveness served her well. Along with her newsroom accomplishments, Thomas-Lynn served as president of the Milwaukee Press Club in 2001; president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association; and as an adjunct journalism professor at Marquette University from 2001-06. . . .” Causey also wrote, “Most remember Thomas-Lynn for her ‘Faces of Hope’ column, which profiled people and non-profit agencies that provided hope and help to those who needed it most. . . .”

Tamron Hall is making a new bid to return to daily TV after leaving NBC News in February,” Brian Steinberg reported Wednesday for Variety. “Weinstein Television said it would work to develop a daytime talk show featuring Hall, who worked for many years as an anchor at MSNBC and on NBC’s ‘Today’ show. Hall will co-create the program with Weinstein and serve as host and executive producer of the series. Weinstein said Barry Wallach, a former president of domestic TV distribution for NBC, would consult. . . .” Kate Stanhope of the Hollywood Reporter added, “No network is yet attached.”


Eddie Huang, chef, restaurateur, author, food personality and producer of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” will be a keynote speaker at the 2017 Gala Scholarship and Awards Banquet on July 29, the Asian American Journalists Association announced on Tuesday.

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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.


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