"Oprah Winfrey stood before cable company executives at an industry confab last month and admitted that the beginning of OWN, her cable channel, wasn't going very well, in part because she had been focused on the end of her daytime talk show instead," Brian Stelter reported Wednesday for the New York Times.
"Now, she told them, she had 'the ability to commit my full energy, feet first,' to the channel.
"On Wednesday she did just that, naming herself the chief executive of OWN and effectively combining the Los Angeles-based channel with her Chicago-based production company, Harpo Studios, in attempt to reboot the channel, which has been burdened by low ratings in its first six months.
" 'This concept of mine, of one team, one mission, and one vision is about to become a day-to-day reality,' she wrote in an e-mail message to staffers at both OWN and Harpo on Wednesday morning.
"Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, the two presidents of Harpo Studios, will immediately become the presidents of OWN, too. Then, in the fall, Ms. Winfrey will take over as chief executive.
"She will also take the title chief creative officer, which was originally held by Lisa Erspamer, one of her top lieutenants. And she will remain the chairman of OWN, which is a joint venture between Harpo and Discovery Communications.
"Ms. Winfrey's consolidation of power suggests that she will be much more involved in the day-to-day decisions of the channel — something that executives at Discovery and television critics have appealed for.
". . . Significantly for OWN, the channel says that all of Harpo's future television projects 'will be directed exclusively to OWN.' Harpo is already producing several shows for OWN, including 'Oprah Presents Master Class' and 'In The Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman.'
" 'The channel may also wind up with more programming starring Ms. Winfrey, who is only contractually obligated to appear in 70 telecasts a year. (In lieu of [a] five-days-a-week talk show like the one Ms. Winfrey hosted in syndication for 25 years, she is currently planning to host a show called 'Oprah's Next Chapter' that would appear on OWN two or three times a week. "Oprah's Next Chapter' is set to start in January.)"
Ronnie Agnew, executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and co-chair of the Diversity Committee of the American Society of News Editors, has made the "gut-wrenching decision" to leave the newspaper business to become the new executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, he told Journal-isms on Wednesday.
Agnew has been executive editor of the Gannett-owned paper for nine years. For a year and a half before that, Agnew was managing editor. He starts his new job in mid-August, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
"This was a gut-wrenching decision for me," Agnew said by email. "I am a student of the diversity census numbers. I know how far we have to go as [an] industry to make even small gains, and how much ground we're losing. I leave with a sense of guilt that I am letting my profession down in some way.
"There are so few executive editors of color in the country and it saddens me that I am leaving their ranks. With that said, for once I had to step outside of myself and focus on my family. Over the years, I've missed too many ball games, been late for too many school programs and handed over the reins of parenting to my wife. On July 26, we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
"Mississippi Public Broadcasting will have its own challenges and represent uncharted territory for me. But I am assured that I will have more time to spend with my family. This move is about family, my love for them, and my desire to be a better father. This move is about taking Mississippi Public Broadcasting to the next level through knowledge as a journalist gleaned over 27 years. Much soul searching and many prayers led me to this place.
"I will forever be a member of The Clarion-Ledger's family. And I will forever be a member of NABJ and journalism's impressive family," he said referring to the National Association of Black Journalists. "This is far from goodbye."
As with many newspapers, the Clarion-Ledger newsroom has been trimmed in recent years. It shared in the 700-employee downsizing mandated by the Gannett Co. last month, and in November, in another round of cost-cutting, Gannett laid off Agnew's managing editor, Don Hudson. Hudson is now executive editor of the Decatur (Ala.) Daily.
A census taken in April by Hudson for NABJ found about 18 black journalists who were top editors at daily newspapers. Since then, Glenn Proctor retired as editor of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch.
"In the normal editing process and a follow-up review, it was discovered that Penn had lifted material from press releases verbatim, in some cases presenting others' conclusions and opinions as his own and without attribution. Editors found more than a dozen examples in Penn's columns dating back to 2008," a Star story said.
Penn, 53, acknowledged running press releases. "I throw myself on the mercy of the court," he told Journal-isms.
Penn was one of three black columnists remaining at the Star after sports columnist Jason Whitlock left last year after 16 years.
The others are Lewis Diuguid, who serves on the editorial board, writes a Monday column and is also letters editor, and Jenee Osterheldt, a features columnist.
The Star story said of Penn, "His column sought out human interest stories among the people and places of Kansas City." Penn created the Coda Jazz Fund, which helps bury local musicians whose family cannot afford to do so, and he wrote often about black community subjects, such as the city's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
"Since this is a personnel issue, I won't have any comment on Steve's situation in particular, other than to say that he's a good man and we'll miss him," Mike Fannin, the Star's editor, told Journal-isms.
Fannin said the paper was "hopeful that we'll soon be in a position to fill the sports columnist opening, and diversity will certainly be a consideration there. With Steve's departure, as you might imagine, our metro column lineup is in flux."
While Fannin was charitable in his comments toward Penn, the alternative paper the Pitch was not.
"Penn's sin isn't using news releases to find something to write about," wrote Peter Rugg. "There are good causes and genuinely newsworthy events that need help getting word out. . . . Penn's worst crime was that in a business where his unknown compatriots are working under the shadow of a gun, for a smaller check, and without the luxury of 12 inches of column space to stump for whatever cause they want, he was too goddamn lazy."
Penn joined the Star in 1980 and is a member of the Trotter Group of African American columnists.
"The smoke from Arizona's largest wildland fire, the Wallow Fire, gently drifted over the mountains northeast of the White Mountain Apache tribal headquarters here," veteran reporter Marley Shebala wrote June 16 from Whiteriver, Ariz., in the Navajo Times.
"On June 5, the fire was raging out of control as it entered Apache land on the White Mountain and San Carlos reservations. As of Wednesday, it had consumed more than 12,909 acres of forest belonging to the White Mountain Apaches and was five miles from the tribe's economic heartbeat, the Sunrise Ski Resort.
"More than 160 wildland firefighters have kept the fire at bay by creating a buffer of cleared land using bulldozers, handsaws and other hand tools. . . ."
Perhaps most remarkable about Shebala's report was that it gave readers information she said they weren't getting in the mainstream media or from the National Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, which provided the public with updates on the fire disaster, Shebala said on Wednesday.
"It was the same in California," she said at a seminar in conjunction with the Native American Journalists Association convention, held this year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We never read about the impact on Indian communities there. Some opened their doors to evacuees."
(A July 2 Associated Press story about the fires from Santa Clara Pueblo, N.M., did note that, "A wildfire that forced federal employees to flee the desert birthplace of the atomic bomb neared the sacred sites of several American Indian tribes on Saturday, raising fears that tribal lands passed down for generations would be destroyed.")
Wildfires are important news, not least because of their economic toll. The Arizona fire that held the previous record for devastation, the Rodeo-Chediski blazes of 2002, cost the White Mountain Apaches their timber mill.
Shebala made her remarks at a daylong session called "Covering Business on Tribal Lands" sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
In introducing herself, Shebala, a past vice president of NAJA, recalled her arrival in 1986 as news director of KTNN, then a new Navajo language AM station in Window Rock, Ariz. Shebala said that when she offered her station's stories to the Associated Press, she was told that nobody but Navajos would be interested.
"I said, 'That's pretty racist. I could file a complaint,' " she recalled.
When AP relented and moved the stories on its wire, the news service received grateful feedback from around the state, Shebala said.
NAJA, with about 320 members the smallest of the major journalist of color associations, is meeting through Saturday in a beachfront high-rise hotel with an ocean view so enticing that the shades had to be drawn to keep eyes from wandering.
The pre-convention seminar, attended by about a dozen people, was designed to teach the ins and outs of reporting on small businesses and nonprofits, especially in Indian Country.
"If you write about private companies, you will find stories and write stories that nobody else is writing about," Chris Roush, founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the group.
Convention attendees are scheduled to discuss such topics as "Equating Seminoles to Terrorists" and "The Digital Revolution of Native Media and Entertainment Reporting." About 100 people are expected, said Jeff Harjo, NAJA executive director. Eighty-five have registered.
Four candidates are vying for three seats on the NAJA board. The winning candidates then choose their officers.
The woman chosen in January to replace Kathy Y. Times, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, in the anchor chair at WDBD-TV Jackson, Miss., is leaving after six months on the job.
"My last day is the end of the book, July 27th," Trei Johnson told Journal-isms Wednesday by email.
"During my short tenure I helped increase the ratings at WDBD, something I am very proud of. I was blessed to work for a very experienced, knowledgeable and understanding News Director, as well as a family oriented General Manager who understand my situation and are allowing me to leave early. Unfortunately, my husband's contract was extended in Florida and maintaining two separate households in two different states has proven to be too difficult. Not to mention the [kids'] transition into Mississippi schools was more challenging than we had hoped.
"Since I'm a mother first and an Anchor second I have to move back to Orlando. I'm hoping to find a position in Florida allowing me to perform all the duties I am passionate about, family and news."
Times was an investigative reporter and co-anchor of "Fox 40 News at 9" as well as NABJ's vice president-broadcast from 2007 to 2009 before being elected NABJ president. She had been working without a contract when the Fox affiliate introduced a new high-definition local morning talk show and a new 9 p.m. news team. Johnson was hired from Central Florida News 13, a 24-hour local news channel covering the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne corridor.
"We are very pleased with the ratings growth we have experienced since we put together a new team here at Fox 40," News Director Stan Sanders told Journal-isms.
"Trei has been an vital part of our improved ratings. Unfortunately, Trei has pressing family matters and as such has made the extremely difficult decision to leave our Fox 40 family. She will be returning to Orlando. She will be greatly missed and we wish her only the best.
". . . We are in the process of a nationwide search."
"Martin Luther King III and Ambassador Andrew Young announced today that Bounce TV, the over-the-air television network for African-American audiences, will debut on Monday, Sept. 26, at noon ET," TVNewsCheck reported on Tuesday.
" 'Sept. 26 will be an important milestone as we launch the first-ever independently owned and operated broadcast television network featuring African Americans,' said King.
". . . King and Young are part of Bounce TV's founding group and board of directors. Bounce TV is majority owned and operated by African Americans.
"The nascent network also announced that it will be seen on Belo Corp.'s KHOU Houston, the eighth-largest African-American market in the country.
". . . Bounce TV will target African Americans primarily between the ages of 25 and 54 with a programming mix of theatrical motion pictures, live sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series, original programming and more. The network will be seen in Houston, Cleveland-Akron, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Hartford-New Haven, Norfolk, Dayton, West Palm Beach, Birmingham, Memphis, Louisville and Richmond, among other markets."