New Black Leader at Washington Post

Kevin Merida (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)
Kevin Merida (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Maynard Grad Is First Black Journalist to Assume the Title

Kevin Merida, national editor at the Washington Post, was named a managing editor at the newspaper Monday, the highest position a black journalist has achieved at the Post.

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Marty Baron, the former Boston Globe editor who became Post executive editor in January, called a meeting in the middle of the newsroom and made the announcement in person, a Post staffer told Journal-isms. "The applause and cheers were off the charts. Really joyous moment," the staffer said. "Kevin appeared to be genuinely touched — and also a bit overwhelmed by the moment."

Merida, 56, is a 1979 graduate of the Maynard Institute's Summer Program for Minority Journalists and was named "Journalist of the Year" of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2000. He is also a "Journal-isms" reader.

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He messaged, "To Journal-isms readers, I'd say:

"I am extremely honored to be managing editor of The Washington Post. I love our craft and its limitless possibilities. I still believe in what we do. We have a great news organization, with an incredibly dedicated and talented group of journalists. I hope to create more excitement in our newsroom, more energy, more joy."

Merida succeeds Liz Spayd, who left the newspaper on Thursday, and will share the title with John Temple, the former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News who joined the newspaper as a managing editor last year.

Merida will be responsible for news and features coverage as well as the Universal News Desk.

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The last black journalist to be considered for Post managing editor was Eugene Robinson in 2004, when a single person held the title. Robinson instead became a columnist and in 2009 won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Robinson, then assistant managing editor for the Style section, had been called the newsroom favorite, and then-executive editor Leonard Downie Jr.'s  failure to selected him prompted questions about the paper's commitment to diversity and a newsroom committee to examine the question.

Monday's announcement reads:

"The Washington Post today announces that Kevin Merida becomes managing editor for The Washington Post, responsible for news and features coverage as well as the Universal News Desk. His new role is effective immediately.

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"Reporting to Merida will the editors of The Post's National, Foreign, Metro, Business, Sports, Investigations, Outlook, Style, Arts, Travel, Food, Local Living and Weekend/Going Out Guide sections and The Washington Post Magazine. He joins managing editor John Temple, who in his role will now oversee digital operations and initiatives, all presentation units, the multiplatform desk, budgeting, and newsroom operations.

" 'Kevin is a journalist of remarkable accomplishment, with a record of strong leadership.

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" 'During his 20 years at The Post, he has covered Congress and presidential campaigns, as well as stories that called upon his great strengths as a long-form feature writer. He has cultivated a talented staff on the National desk, and he has won the admiration and affection of his colleagues. I'm delighted to have him leading coverage across the entire newsroom,' said Marty Baron, Executive Editor for The Washington Post.

"Most recently, Merida was The Post's national editor, leading the coverage of news events that have consumed the country's attention: the BP oil spill, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the 2012 presidential campaign, the Ft. Hood, Aurora and Newtown shootings, the battle over health care, the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff fights, and more. During his tenure, Fact Checker was introduced, The Fix was expanded, and The Post started a new blog, She the People, to showcase the voices of women. The Post's national staff also enhanced its digital presence through live-blogging as well as The Grid, providing comprehensive coverage of live events.

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"Merida was raised in the Washington, D.C., area and graduated from Boston University in 1979 with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the biography 'Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas,' and co-author of the bestselling 'Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.' Merida is married to author and former Post columnist Donna Britt. They have three sons and live in Silver Spring, Md."

Merida was named assistant managing editor for national news in 2008 in one of the first appointments by then-executive editor Marcus Brauchli. Merida was then an associate editor.

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Steven Mufson, Washington Post: Washington Post names Kevin Merida as new managing editor for news and features

Post's First Black Reporter Says It "Damn Near Killed" Him

Coincidentally, Simeon Booker, the first full-time black reporter at the Washington Post, was inducted last month into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame (video).

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Booker is better known as a longtime correspondent for Jet magazine, but he includes his Post experience in his memoir, "Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement," to be published in May.

"Washington in 1951 was still a very Southern and very segregated city," Booker, now 94, writes in the book. "I couldn't eat lunch downtown, even in some federal agency cafeterias, including, ironically, the Interstate Commerce Commission, where I might be covering a story related to segregation.

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"White taxi drivers didn't stop for me, and even the police treated me more like a suspect than a reporter when I covered a crime scene or a fire.

". . . The stories I covered spanned the gamut of urban and federal news. One of the first, on November 21, 1951, ran under the headline, 'Senate Group Issues Negro Status Report.' A Senate labor subcommittee had found that 'in almost every significant economic and social characteristic that can be measured' including life expectancy, employment, education, and income, Negroes were on the bottom of the pile. No more than a summary of the study, it was the kind of story I would have liked to pursue, to dig deeper, to explain how the system worked, how institutions affected people's lives, I suggested investigative pieces about race relations and other urban topics during my two years on the paper's staff, most were shunted aside.

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" . . . I did my best to tough it out at the Post, although it was quite a comedown from the equality and cordial collegiality I had experienced in Cambridge as a Nieman Fellow, and I got to know only a few of the paper's reporters. I struggled so hard to succeed that friends thought I was dying; I looked so fatigued. Trying to cover news in a city where even pet cemeteries were segregated was overwhelming. I set a goal and decided to leave the Post if I ever got a banner headline. After two years at the paper, that day came. I don't even recall what the story was.

"Looking back, I give [publisher] Phil Graham credit. He hired me. The newspaper may or may not have been ready. They had no standards or policies regarding the integration of their ranks, such as the military had developed. If it was a social experiment, I think I passed the test — although it damn near killed me."

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Booker took note of Merida's achievement Monday afternoon on Facebook. "Another milestone. Congratulations, Kevin," he wrote.

Amber Larkins, American Journalism Review: Sixty-Five Years of Covering the News (December 2012/January 2013)

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Super Bowl Drew Huge Audience, but Not a Record

It drew a huge audience, though last night's Super Bowl did not break the record for most-watched program in television history," Louisa Ada Seltzer wrote Monday for Media Life Magazine.

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"It was third-best.

"CBS's broadcast of the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers averaged 108.41 million total viewers, according to Nielsen, the third-largest audience in TV history.

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"It finished behind only last year's broadcast of the Super Bowl, which drew 111.3 million total viewers on NBC, and 2011's broadcast, which drew 111 million viewers on Fox.

". . . But it was still an impressive showing considering neither the victorious Ravens nor the 49ers have a huge national following . . . ."

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Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: The B Bowl.

Rebecca Carroll, good.is: Why It's Perfectly Acceptable that Colin Kaepernick Doesn't Want to Meet His Birthmother

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Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: To me, Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis is a sinner who 'got up'

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: Stevie Wonder show too crowded, but Super Bowl Saturday in New Orleans was still perfect

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Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: From blackout to Beyonce: Storify collection of the media madness during Super Bowl XVII

Mike Freeman, CBSSports.com: Power outage jolts Kaepernick, 49ers, but not quite enough

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Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post: Super Bowl Is Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In U.S.: Attorney General

Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: A Super Bowl with the lights on and the Asian American stereotypes in those commercials

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Jay Caspian Kang, Grantland: DIVAWATCH: A Second Opinion on Beyonce, and Thoughts on the Other Super Bowl Divas

Tim Kawakami, Bay Area News Group: What's next for 49ers? Decompress, then stop complaining about non-calls

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Alexis C. Madrigal, the Atlantic: The Whitewashing of the American Farmer: Dodge Ram Super Bowl Ad Edition

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Keep Dancing for Jesus, Ray Lewis!

Julie Moos, Poynter Institute: The 5 most inspiring Super Bowl moments and the best front pages

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Wesley Morris, Grantland: Bow Down to the Queen: Notes on Beyonce's Halftime Show

Darryl E. Owens, Orlando Sentinel: Amid the Ray Lewis hoopla, remember athletes like Vince Carter who never needed an image makeover (Feb. 1)

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Monte Poole, Bay Area News Group: Emotional day for the Harbaugh brothers

Bob Raissman, Daily News, New York: Super Bowl XLVII: CBS drops the ball in Superdome blackout coverage by failing to press the NFL for answers

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Arlene M. Roberts, Huffington Post: Native Tongue: Speaking With a Caribbean Accent

As Candidate, Geraldo Would Have to Quit Fox

"Geraldo Rivera's stated interest in running for a Senate seat in New Jersey has been derided as a joke and a publicity stunt. But his employers are taking it seriously," Brian Stelter wrote Monday for the New York Times.

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"He'd have to leave his weekend Fox News Channel show, 'Geraldo at Large,' as soon as he formally decided to run, a spokeswoman for the channel said.

". . . Mr. Rivera initially brought up his interest in running for the Senate seat on his talk radio show last Thursday. The one-year-old show is distributed by Cumulus. Asked whether Mr. Rivera would have to quit or suspend the show if he decided to run, a spokesman for the distributor said, 'Talk radio hosts talk about lots of things, and if at some point this is more than talk we'll address the issue appropriately then.'  . . ."

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Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor: Geraldo Rivera 'truly contemplating' run for Senate. Could he win?

Howard Kurtz, Daily Beast: Senator Geraldo Rivera? Seems Unlikely the Fox News Pundit Will Run

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Joe Strupp, Media Matters: News Ethicists: Geraldo's Senate Run "A Clear Conflict" With His Media Posts

Misreading Guns and the Civil Rights Movement

"Rush Limbaugh thinks John Lewis should have been armed," Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote Saturday in his Miami Herald column.

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" 'If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma?' he said recently on his radio show, referencing the 1965 voting rights campaign in which Lewis, now a congressman from Georgia, had his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 'If John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?'

"Right. Because a shootout between protesters and state troopers would have done so much more to secure the right to vote.

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"Incredibly, that's not the stupidest thing anyone has said recently about the Civil Rights Movement.

"No, that distinction goes to one Larry Ward, who claimed in an appearance on CNN that Martin Luther King would have supported Ward's call for a Gun Appreciation Day 'if he were alive today.' In other words, the premiere American pacifist of the 20th century would be singing the praises of guns, except that he was shot in the face with one 45 years ago.

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"Thus do social conservatives continue to rewrite the inconvenient truths of African-American history, repurposing that tale of incandescent triumph and inconsolable woe to make it useful within the crabbed corners of their failed and discredited dogma. . . ."

Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: Meet the man behind the lens of Philly's biggest black social events

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Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Rosa Parks, Revisited

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Putting GOP clichés in their holsters

Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: Lessons of black history are doubly important today

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Derek Donovan, Kansas City Star: Be specific with gun terminology

Karen Dunlap, Poynter Institute: 4 lessons for media leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. and Gene Patterson (Jan. 21)

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Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Teach kids the real story about race

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Washington Redskins and Negro Mountain: Two offensive names that need to be changed

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Anthony Otero, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Afro-Latinos and Black History Month

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: No easy answers for gun woes

Mychal Denzel Smith, the Guardian, Britain: Why America needs White History Month

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R. Thomas Umstead, Multichannel News: Cable Celebrates Black History Month

Michael Paul Williams, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch: Why is it legal to carry a rifle while shopping?

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Clinton Yates, Washington Post: Whither Black History Month? The problem isn't the month, it's the history

Ballentine's Lawyers Say He May Win Hollow Victory

"Syndicated radio talk show host Warren Ballentine did not knowingly participate in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders of $9.7 million and is innocent of all charges filed against him in connection with the scam, his attorneys said," George E. Curry reported in his column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.

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"In separate telephone interviews with the NNPA News Service, Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. and Lewis Myers, Jr., a well-known attorney in Chicago, said they expect Ballentine to be fully vindicated.

" 'I have no doubt at all,' Ogletree said. 'This is not a close case — we will win. But it doesn't matter now because all that is in the press is, "Celebrity Lawyer involved in $10 Million Scam." '

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"The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, based in Chicago, announced a week ago that Ballentine had been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly engaging in two mortgage fraud schemes, one from Dec. 2004 to Feb. 2005 and another one from Feb. 2005 to May 2006. . . ."

Spanish-Language Paper Sees Pols' "Canny Politicking"

"For those who were waiting for news on the comprehensive immigration reform front, Monday's proposal by the Senate's so-called 'Gang of 8' (which includes both Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Robert Menendez) seemed a bipartisan first step," Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia, editorialized last week.

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"Tuesday's proposal by President Obama shored up that first step without adding much more to it.

"It is a measure of how disastrous the discourse on immigration reform has become since the days of the Ted Kennedy-John McCain immigration reform bill of 2005 that both of the proposals seem such a step forward to so many of us.

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"Both proposals have their problematic aspects.

"Obama extolled his deportation rate without so much as acknowledging that the [astronomical] number includes nearly as many ordinary heads of household as criminals.

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"The senators proposed that a path to citizenship cannot be enacted until the border is deemed secure by an advisory committee comprised of selected governors, legislators, etc. Depending on who is selected (Arizona Governor Jan Brewer? House Immigration subcommittee members Lamar Smith and Steven King?) this advisory committee might block the institution of a path to citizenship for years.

"But the proposals we heard are canny politicking. . . .

Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Import talent, but nurture local potential, too

Douglas C. Lyons, South Florida SunSentinel: Memo to the far right: cut Marco Rubio some slack

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Nick Jimenez, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times: What's in a name is what's in our hearts

Daniel M. Kowalski, Washington Post: Five myths about the immigration 'line'

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post News Media Services: Splitting the difference on immigration

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Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: We're better than the hateful racial slurs

Short Takes

Sue Simmons, whose contract at WNBC-TV in New York was not renewed after a 32-year anchor run as anchor, told Jerry Barbash of FishbowlNY that she was not asked to help select her successor, Shiba Russell. ". . . '[It] comes from high above. I have no resentment, no whatsoever, toward Shiba,' Simmons says. 'She didn't hire herself. Someone hired her. It's her show now. She has to work this all out.' Simmons has mixed feelings about being replaced by another black woman. 'The positive of it is that another black person is employed in television in a high-visible spot,' Simmons counters. 'The negative of it for me is it looks like they're trying to duplicate. 'And then when Chuck goes, we'll all smile as they replace him with a blonde,' Simmons contends. 'And I think I know who it is… Gus Rosendale. . . . ' "

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Layoffs at the Washington Times last month left its sports department devoid of black journalists. Affected were Carla Peay, who joined the Times in March 2011 as the beat writer for the Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics pro basketball teams, and freelance columnist Deron Snyder, who joined the revived section in March 2011, writing up to three times a week. Sports editor Mike Harris wrote then, ". . . Deron is another strong voice who can get his point across without beating you over the head with a stick. While he was in Fort Myers, Fla., I wanted to hire him in Richmond and the position never came available. . . ."

"In honor of Black History Month, NBC's theGrio.com has announced its annual 'theGrio 100' list of 'African-American history makers and industry leaders who are making a difference in the lives of all Americans,' " Merrill Knox reported for TVNewser. "Media personalities on this year's list include NBC News Washington bureau chief Ken Strickland, ABC's 'Good Morning America' co-host Robin Roberts, 'Live! With Kelly and Michael' co-host Michael Strahan and daytime talk show host Wendy Williams. . . ."

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The Poynter Institute for Media Studies Inc., which owns the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times and runs a journalism education and research facility in St. Petersburg, "lost $3.8 million in 2011, a dramatic change from the year before when the organization lost a little more than $100,000," Richard Mullins reported Friday for the Tampa Tribune. The Form 990 return filed by tax-exempt organizations lists the salaries of Poynter officers and its then-media blogger, Jim Romenesko, who later left Poynter [PDF].

The South Asian Journalists Association's Broadcast Challenge reached its scheduled end date of Feb. 1 with $3,198 collected toward its $10,000 goal, according to the SAJA website. Current and former broadcasters created a challenge grant for SAJA members and friends that would match, dollar-for-dollar, all donations up to a total of $7,500, the organization had said. At a SAJA gala in Washington in July, Ali Velshi, CNN chief business anchor, said he contributed $2,000 toward a broadcast counterpart to the print-based SAJA Editors Challenge, which raised more than $20,000 the previous year for SAJA scholarships.

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"Reuters columnist Felix Salmon writes Friday that the wire service is looking for journalists to work on its revamped website operation, which will launch in March. . . . " Chris Roush reported for Talking Biz News.

In August 1968, Katiti Kironde became the first woman of color to ever grace the cover of Glamour magazine, the Huffington Post's Julee Wilson wrote Friday in a Black History Month feature. "Kironde, who was 18-years-old at the time and an undergraduate at Harvard University, applied for Glamour's 'Top 10 Best Dressed College Girls' competition and won the highest honor. The issue was not only a milestone for the then 30-year-old publication, but it was also the first time that any black women had been featured on the cover of a mainstream women's fashion magazine in the United States. . . ."

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"New Jersey's Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez surely wishes the allegations he faces, which include using his position to benefit a campaign contributor's business interests and patronizing prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, would just go away," Noah Rothman wrote Monday for Mediaite. "New Jersey's junior senator is getting no help from two of his home state papers in making the scandal disappear, however, as two of them recently published editorials voicing serious concerns about the allegations and Menendez's ability to perform ethically in office." The papers are the Star-Ledger in Newark and the Asbury Park Press in Neptune.

Jamesetta M. Walker, who had been writing a "Between the Seams" fashion and style column biweekly on Tuesdays for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and been an assignment editor on its Norfolk and Portsmouth news team, will write a column for the Sunday Business section "helping readers manage the business of life, particularly pocketbook issues," Walker told readers on Sunday.

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"Where in the Caribbean can journalists be sent to prison for doing their job? The answer: Everywhere," Scott Griffen wrote Monday for the International Press Institute. "A comprehensive legal review conducted by the International Press Institute (IPI) confirmed that every independent state considered geographically or culturally part of the Caribbean maintains some form of criminal defamation that could result in imprisonment. . . ."

"Reporters Without Borders is deeply saddened to have just learned that Ayham Mostafa Ghazzoul, a contributor to the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), died under torture four days after being arrested on 5 November 2012," the press freedom organization said Friday.

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In Brazil, "Reporters Without Borders notes that Mauricio Sampaio, the former deputy chairman of the Atlético-Goiás football club, was arrested during the weekend on suspicion of hiring a hit man to murder sports journalist Valério Luiz de Oliveira in Goiânia, the capital of the central state Goiás, last July," the organization reported Monday. "A reporter for Radio Jornal 820 AM, Luiz was one of a total of five journalists who were killed in connection with their work last year in Brazil. . . . "

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

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