New York Post Beats ‘Racially Hostile Workplace’ Lawsuit

Generic image
Thinkstock Photos

The New York Post has withstood lawsuits by two black journalists who charged that they faced a hostile work environment at the newspaper. It has also "resolved" a related case filed by Sandra Guzman, a black Latina who said she was harassed and fired after she spoke out against the infamous 2009 Post cartoon that many viewed as depicting President Obama as a chimpanzee.

"Plaintiffs have not adduced evidence to show that they were treated differently than employees outside of their protected group because of their race," U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield wrote, Nick Divito reported Tuesday for Courthouse News Service.


"Austin Fenner, who is black, claimed in a November 2009 lawsuit against the paper, its parent company, and editors Michelle Gotthelf and Daniel Greenfield that they were subjected to a 'racially hostile work environment,' and that that there hasn't been a single black editor on the Post's Metro Desk in almost 10 years. 

"Another black journalist, Ikimulisa Livingston, joined as a plaintiff, but Judge Schofield highlighted Monday how both plaintiffs conceded that they never heard their supervisors or co-workers utter racial epithets or make overtly racist remarks. The plaintiffs provided only second-hand accounts of their allegations, none of which concerned the named individual defendants.

" 'The second-hand stories of discriminatory comments sporadically directed at other employees, while not irrelevant to assessing the totality of circumstances, in this case do not show that plaintiffs were treated differently from employees in their protected group because of their race,' Schofield wrote. . . ."

Joe Pompeo added for Capital New York, "As for the other suit, in which Sandra Guzman alleged that she was harassed and fired for speaking out against a cartoon printed in the tabloid that was widely perceived as being racist, 'The matter has been resolved,' a Post spokesperson and an attorney for Guzman both told Capital. Neither would elaborate."


As Sam Stein and Michael Calderone reported previously for the Huffington Post, "Guzman sued the Post in 2009 alleging that she had been repeatedly harassed in the newsroom and eventually fired for speaking out against a highly controversial cartoon about President Barack Obama. The cartoon depicted the author of Obama's stimulus package as a chimpanzee shot dead.

"Additionally, she alleged that higher-ups at the Post had fostered a hostile work environment for minorities like herself — a black, Puerto Rican female. [Editor-in-Chief Col] Allan, she said, showed her and other colleagues a cell phone picture of a 'naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis,' while other editors and colleagues repeatedly used misogynistic or racist language. . . ."


However, Divito reported, "As for the alleged hostile work environment created by a verbally abusive editor, the judge noted testimony showing that that editor yelled at other reporters, including white ones."

The Post said in a statement, "We are very pleased with the Court's decision to dismiss the Austin Fenner and Ikimulisa Livingston case in its entirety. As we have maintained for four years and as the federal Court held today in no uncertain terms, their claims of a hostile work environment, disparate treatment and retaliation were completely baseless. This decision represents total vindication for the Post as well as for its senior editors Col Allan, Michelle Gotthelf and Dan Greenfield, who were viciously attacked in the plaintiffs' mendacious complaint."


Fenner told Journal-isms by telephone Tuesday that "we have to respect the judge's decision," but noted that Guzman was granted summary judgment to proceed with her case before it was "resolved."

On Oct. 29, Schofield said Guzman provided "evidence of a sexually charged environment at the Post, permeating the newsroom, meetings and holiday parties," and that her complaints were rebuffed, Reuters reported.


Guzman "offered sufficient evidence that she faced 'severe or pervasive harassment' based on her race and national origin, and might have kept her job but for objecting to a cartoon published on Feb. 18, 2009, that criticized a government stimulus package," the Reuters story continued.

"We worked within the same walls. We worked within the same place. We worked in the same environment," Fenner said. He also praised his colleagues as "courageous to take this step to fight for their professional reputations."


None of the journalists remains in daily journalism.

Fenner, who was fired by the Post after telling Journal-isms he was sickened by the chimpanzee cartoon, is an account executive at Cablevision/Optimum, according to his LinkedIn profile; Livingston left the Post in February after 16 years at the newspaper; and Guzman went on to freelance as editor of Heart & Soul magazine, which she left last year. In a September piece for, she was described as "an award-winning journalist, blogger, media consultant, and author of 'The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina's Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family & La Vida.' "


Raillan Brooks, Village Voice: Six Skin-Crawling Passages from Sandra Guzman's Complaint Against the New York Post (Oct. 31)

Guzman's complaint

Garry D. Howard Out as Sporting News Editor

Garry D. Howard, editor-in-chief of the Sporting News for nearly three years, has "parted ways" with the publication, Howard told Journal-isms on Tuesday.


"I'm no longer Editor in Chief of Sporting News Media," Howard, 54, messaged.

"Very proud of leading Sporting News in its transition from print to digital over the past three years. Believe we did an excellent job."


Juan Delgado, CEO of Sporting News Media, which owns the Sporting News, messaged Tuesday night, "As your article says, Garry was a key part of the Sporting News transition from a print to a digital publication, prior to our Joint Venture with ACBJ, and a valued part of the team," referring to American City Business Journals, the previous owner of the publication.

"Unfortunately we've parted ways based on the direction of the business and his career plans, but I am sure we'll cross paths in the future as he is a very influential and respected voice within the industry."


Howard's hiring from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in November 2010 marked the first time that an African American would lead a national general sports magazine's editorial staff, the Sporting News said at the time. He joined as the Charlotte, N.C.-based publication was reinventing itself as a Web property.

A week after Howard took the job in January 2011, Sporting News made a deal to license the AOL FanHouse name and take editorial control of its content, as Richard Sandomir reported at the time for the New York Times. However, some columnists of color were laid off with the absorption of the FanHouse franchise, despite Howard's commitment to diversity.


The man to whom Howard reported when he was hired, Sporting News President and Publisher Jeff Price, left the company in September. Ownership of the company changed as well.

The British-based Perform Group, which describes itself as "a leader in the commercialization of multimedia sports content across internet-enabled digital platforms," became the majority partner in the company that owns the publication, with the previous owner, American City Business Journals, a minority partner.


Price, a veteran media and marketing executive who previously held roles with Sports Illustrated, Millsport, Trakus and MasterCard, was credited with "leading the effort to shift the 127-year-old Sporting News from a print-based company to one highly active on the Web, on mobile devices and in social media," Eric Fisher wrote in September for Sports Business Journal.

"The new Sporting News Media now stands among the most highly trafficked entities in U.S. digital sports media, ranking seventh in the most recent reach rankings from measurement firm comScore," Fisher wrote.


Howard became one of the first African Americans to head the sports section of a mainstream daily — the only one at the time at a major paper — when he joined the old Milwaukee Journal as executive sports editor in 1994. He became sports editor of the merged Journal Sentinel in 1995 and assistant managing editor/sports in 2000.

Howard was the first African American president of the Associated Press Sports Editors, ending his year's term in June 2010. Active in the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists, he was awarded the task force's Sam Lacy Pioneer Award in 2009 for his lifetime commitment to sports journalism.


Detroit Crisis Prompts $500,000 in Grants to Media Groups

"Detroit may have filed for bankruptcy, but public-service reporting efforts there and in Michigan just got a big boost," Dru Sefton reported Wednesday for


"The Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation announced Tuesday $500,000 in support to two projects, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and the Michigan Reporting Institute.

"The cooperative consists of five nonprofit media organizations that will receive $250,000 from Knight to focus on the city’s financial straits and engage citizens in the search for innovative solutions. The convening partner is Center for Michigan, a 'think and do tank' advocating for citizen involvement in policy issues, along with pubcasters WDET-FM, Michigan Radio and Detroit Public Television, as well as New Michigan Media, a network of ethnic and minority-oriented news operations.


"The Michigan Reporting Institute will receive the remainder of the grant from Ford for Zero Divide, a social-impact consultancy using technology to tackle issues of health, economic opportunities and civic engagement in underserved communities. . . ."

Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press: Bankruptcy ruling is the start of help Detroit needs


John S. & James L. Knight Foundation: Two new projects win funding to support news in the public interest: The Detroit Journalism Cooperative and The Michigan Reporting Initiative

Eric Newton, Knight Foundation: How public media can help the recovery of Detroit


Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Detroit firefighter's widow wants Orr to remember the families

Ashley Woods, HuffPost BlackVoices: Detroit After Bankruptcy Ruling — What Happens Next?


CNN's Zucker Planning Less News, Prime-Time Shakeup

"After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone," Mike Allen and Alex Weprin wrote Tuesday for Capital New York.


"So he is planning much broader changes for the network — including a prime-time shakeup that's likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

"Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage 'that is just not being so obvious.' "


"Instead, he wants more of 'an attitude and a take' . . ."

ESPN'S Cross to Be News Anchor at "News One Now"

"TV One has hired editor Shannon Cross as news anchor for its live daily news program, News One Now, network officials said Wednesday," R. Thomas Umstead reported for Multichannel News.


"Cross will serve as a contributing voice of the daily morning news broadcast, narrating both breaking news briefs and lengthier feature segments beginning Dec. 9, said the network. Additionally, Cross will join News One host Roland Martin in his analysis of the day's headlines, discussions with on-set panelists, Skype-net interviews, social media integration and standing segments.

"Cross most recently served as an editor, reporter and on-air personality for ESPN and associate editor for . . ."


Film Critics Raising Money to Bury Colleague Eric Harrison

The family of Eric Harrison, the former Houston Chronicle film critic who died last month at 57, doesn't have the $6,000 to provide for a proper burial, his Chronicle colleague Clifford Pugh wrote Wednesday.  Friends and colleagues are being asked to join in, Pugh wrote.


"Joshua Starnes, president of the Houston Film Critics Society, of which Harrison was a founding member, located the crowd-sourcing site Funeral Fund as a place where anyone can donate. In less than a day, 19 people have chipped in $1,190," Pugh wrote. By 9 p.m. Tuesday, the fund had reached $2,490.

The site says, "On November 17, after several days without contact, a neighbor asked police to look in on Eric's apartment where he was discovered to have recently passed due to a brain aneurysm. He left nojavascript:void(0); life insurance behind and his family are struggling to come up with the money for his funeral services. As his friends and colleagues the Houston Film Critics Society is asking for any who can to help us lay our friend and colleague to rest with the dignity he deserves. . . ."


Pugh wrote, "Organizers have until Dec. 17 to reach the goal. If the total amount isn't raised by then, Eric will likely be buried by the county as a pauper."

Why Not Pay Washington Team Owner to Change the Name?

"Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused good advice from diverse quarters on changing his team's offensive name," Justin Moyer wrote Sunday in the Washington Post. "He’s ignored the pleas of Native American tribes. He's ignored President Obama and Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and Mike Wise. When protesters showed up in Minneapolis at the Redskins-Vikings game in early November, he ignored them, too.


"After years of ineffective rallies, op-eds, lawsuits, House bills and D.C. Council hearings about this controversy, one remedy remains for those who want Snyder to change his mind:

"Pay him off. . . ."

Moyer concluded, "Snyder has responded to emotional arguments about his team's name — Change this name because it hurts us — with an emotional argument of his own: Changing this name will hurt me and my team's fans.


"But what if an organized group of Pigskins advocates — plus a wealthy donor — came to him with a substantial payoff that proved that their hurt was bigger than his? What if they sweated to raise a massive sum, then humbled themselves before Snyder and were willing to fork over the cash in exchange for a promise?

"How could Snyder turn them down?"

Mary Hudetz, Seattle Times: Washington's NFL team name is offensive to Native Americans


Arnold Loewy and Eugenia Charles-Newton, Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal: It's Debatable: Is name 'Redskins' for NFL's Washington D.C. team acceptable?

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: To Change Racist Team Name, Fire the Owner (Nov. 13)


Stephen Pevar, American Civil Liberties Union: Why "Redskins" Is Wrong (Nov. 25)

Journalists, Fellows Produce Black Guide to Law Schools

"You've undoubtedly read recent stories in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times regarding the crisis in legal education, but missing from these news stories is the disproportionate impact higher student loan debt, diminished job prospects, and industry biases have on black law students," according to Yolanda Young, CEO and publisher of "On Being a Black Lawyer."


"Lawyers Of Color's veteran journalists and legal media fellows have compiled months of interviews and data collection into this year's 'Black Student's Guide to Law Schools,' " Young told Journal-isms Tuesday by email.

"Inside we report on the low black enrollment at flagship law schools in states that have disallowed race as a factor in admissions and reveal that some HBCU [historically black colleges and universities] law schools are no longer majority black.


"We also point out how both President Obama and Chief Justice [John G.] Roberts [Jr.] have suggested the need for law school reform. Finally, we rank the best law schools for black students using objective criteria like job placement rates, black student and faculty percentages, and costs and eschew traditional subjective measures like 'reputation' that tend to undervalue a school like Howard Law, which places as many black graduates in large law firms as do Ivy League law schools. . . ."

Leading the list of the "Top 25 National Law Schools for Black Students" are Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, Howard University School of Law and Yale Law School.


North Carolina Central School of Law (48.9 percent black) and Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law (44.8 percent) were listed among law schools at historically black universities that are no longer majority black.

A free digital version is available for review and download on the Lawyers of Color website:


Matt Leichter, Am Law Daily: 'White Flight' Hits Nation's Law Schools (Nov. 27)

Short Takes

"The union representing the Chicago Sun-Times photographers who lost their jobs when the entire photography staff was fired this year says the paper's publisher has agreed to rehire four of them," the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.


"Don Lemon, the highly controversial news anchor, volunteered his neck to Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, aka the 'black-belt rabbi,' to demonstrate how helpless victims can defend themselves against rabble-rousers who prey on unsuspecting people in the 'knockout game,' " Stephen A. Crockett Jr. reported Wednesday for The Root. BuzzFeed posted the "Insane CNN Segment Featuring A Rabbi With A Black Belt Shows You How To Survive The 'Knockout Game'." Josmar Trujillo, writing Tuesday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, wrote that "Largely lost in the debate over whether the 'knockout' game is a 'trend' or a 'myth' is the possibility that media's obsession with the game might actually be itself inspiring copycat cases. . . ."

The artist still known as Prince will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Essence Festival with a headlining performance at the Superdome in New Orleans over the Fourth of July weekend, Essence Communications announced on Tuesday. The festival, which drew 540,000 attendees this year, is a major contributor to the magazine company's bottom line.


Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, introduced a bill Wednesday "To award a Congressional Gold Medal to Simeon Booker in recognition of his achievements in the field of journalism, including reporting during the Civil Rights movement, as well as social and political commentary." Booker, who is 95, had a 65-year journalism career, mostly writing for Johnson Publishing Co., publishers of Ebony and Jet magazines.

Uptown Ventures Group, parent company of Uptown Magazine, acquired Hype Hair magazine, an African American women's hair care brand, and announced the formation of U Brands, an investment vehicle focused on acquiring and licensing similar niche brands, Arti Patel reported Nov. 27 for Folio:.


Eric Mays, a Flint, Mich., city councilman elected last month in the journalism fail in which the felony on his record went unreported, won a recount by eight votes, Jake May reported Tuesday for

The Asian American Journalists Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors have agreed that members of both organizations may take advantage of the training offered at three national events next year: IRE's Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference in Baltimore in February, IRE's annual conference in San Francisco in June and the AAJA national convention in Washington in August. "Members of each organization can use their existing membership to register for any of these events, meaning AAJA members don't need to purchase IRE memberships, and IRE members won't be required to join AAJA," they said in a Nov. 26 announcement to members.


Sarah Blazucki of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association was elected treasurer of Unity: Journalists of Diversity Monday and Margaret Holt of the Native American Journalists Association was elected secretary, the coalition announced. Unity now consists of the Asian American Journalists Association, NAJA and NLGJA. The national associations of black and Hispanic journalists have left the coalition.

Univision announced a one-hour documentary-style special, "¿Y Ahora Que?… ¿Como pago mis estudios superiores?" (Now what?… How do I pay for higher education?), "which will address the financial aid options available to students to cover the cost of their post-secondary studies, as part of the company's comprehensive, multiplatform education initiative, Univision Educación." It is to air nationally on Saturday at 5 p.m. EST (4 p.m. CST).


"Amid skyrocketing inflation and shortages of basic goods, Venezuelan authorities claim that an 'economic war' is being waged against the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro. The government is striking back by forcing stores to discount prices, by arresting business owners accused of hoarding — and by targeting journalists trying to cover the grim economic news," John Otis reported Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Kenya's Editors Guild and the Kenya Correspondents' Association organized peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest a media bill currently under parliamentary review," Tom Rhodes reported Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rhodes also wrote, "Originally passed in record time by Parliament on October 31, the bill would remove the self-regulating media body and replace it with a government-controlled ombudsman and introduce hefty fines and stringent advertising and programming regulations. Hopes of reform under a presidential veto were quashed last week after [President Uhuru] Kenyatta made small amendments to the original draft but ignored the majority of concerns raised by the media, said David Ohito, deputy director of the Editors' Guild. . . ."


Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince’s Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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

Share This Story

Get our newsletter