N.Y. Times Writer on Race to Be MacArthur Fellow

Ebony Editor Confirms She’s Left the Company

Journalists of Color at 16.6 Percent in ASNE Census

State Dept., White House Differ on Media Issues

Essence, People en Español in Time Inc. Cutbacks

Whites Awarded for Stories on Black Communities

Why It’s So Hard for Some to Relate to Voters

Public Editor Says Suspension of Hill is Worrisome

Short Takes

‘Our Leadership Should Reflect Our Readership’: Phil Currie’s Remarks on John Quinn

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Nikole Hannah-Jones (credit: MacArthur Foundation

Nikole Hannah-Jones (credit: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

N.Y. Times Writer on Race to Be MacArthur Fellow

A few years ago, says Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for the New York Times Magazine,  “I was told I was writing about black people too much” and was punished for it. On Tuesday, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant for “chronicling the persistence of racial segregation in American society, particularly in education, and reshaping national conversations around education reform.”

Each of the recipients has been selected for having ‘shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction’ — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation ‘as an investment in their potential,’ paid out over five years with no strings attached,” Colin Dwyer reported Wednesday for NPR.

Very few things in life leave me speechless,” Hannah-Jones tweeted. “Getting this call did. I’m honored, grateful to hv a platform to expose scourge of segregation.”

Her employer tweeted, “The New York Times is proud to say we finally have a genius in our midst. Nikole Hannah-Jones has been honored with a MacArthur Genius Grant.”

The news organization then packaged “The Best of Nikole Hannah-Jones” as a feature on nytimes.com.

The Times added, “Her article for the magazine documenting school segregation won a National Magazine Award earlier this year. Before that, she received a Peabody and a George Polk Award for earlier work on the topic. She is also a founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a 2015 MacArthur winner also acclaimed for his writing about race, approved. He tweeted, “Hell yeah @nhannahjones”.

Hannah-Jones replied, “This thread by my dear, dear friend and unpaid hype man has given me SO MUCH DAMN LIFE. I <3 my village.”

In 2015, when Hannah-Jones received the Journalist of the Year award from the National Association of Black Journalists (second item), she told the crowd, “Four years ago, I was told I was writing about black people too much. I was punished for that.” She said she did not believe the narratives that were being published about why black people migrated northward, working menial jobs. “I knew the narratives were not true. We came up here for a better life.”

She also said, “Four years ago — it broke my heart” when she was told she was writing too much about African Americans, so much that she thought about leaving the profession.

Fortunately, Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica editor-in-chief, “saved me” with a job offer and “allowed me to do what I wanted to do. So many assignment editors do not allow us to tell the stories we have. Let us tell our stories.”

Peter Bhatia, then editor of the Oregonian, where Hannah-Jones worked four years prior, messaged Journal-isms, “Nikole is a fine reporter and we were sorry to see her leave The Oregonian, though the opportunity at ProPublica was a great [opportunity.] If that was said to her I would expect it was in the context of diversifying her work to take advantage of her skills.”

Hannah-Jones told the NABJ audience, “I’m tired of hearing the same excuses that the talent is not there. The talent is in this room. We are here. . . . I write for us, I write our stories and I push back. I say push back, keep making them uncomfortable, because that is what I plan to do.” And she has.

At NABJ, she quoted the title of a James Brown song: “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing, open up the door, I’ll get it myself.”

Ebony Editor Confirms She’s Left the Company

Tracey M. Ferguson, who in February was named editor-in-chief of a revived Jet magazine, then in May was also given the editorship of Ebony, has left the company, Ferguson confirmed on Thursday.

Tracey M. Ferguson

Tracey M. Ferguson

Michael Gibson, co-founder and co-chairman of CVG Group LLC, which purchased Ebony and Jet in June 2016, confirmed by email Thursday that no print copies are available of the new Ebony issue, featuring actor Chadwick Boseman on the cover.

“We have done some reorganization. Still have more items to close before we are ready with a full press release. It will probably take a few more weeks,” Gibson said.

Asked who is now editing the magazines, Gibson said, “That will all be part of the update.”

Ebony has received a constant stream of negative publicity almost since Gibson’s firm purchased the magazine from the Johnson Publishing Co., headed by Linda Johnson Rice, daughter of the founders. Writers filed suit over not being paid and personnel have frequently changed.

One subscriber wrote Journal-isms last month, “We recently renewed our Ebony subscription, or so we thought. We got the attached form letter that states, ‘The amount of subscription orders that a publisher will accept is constantly changing and therefore, we are having difficulty completing your order through our clearing firms.’

“So it is offering Essence instead of Ebony ‘as a replacement for your order, which we are unable to complete at this time.’ ”

Gibson told Journal-isms Thursday, “We have had multiple reports and are working through the issue to get it resolved.”

Ferguson messaged, “I do not wish to contribute to the negative press surrounding the company, so I have nothing exceptionally interesting to add,” saying she left “a few weeks ago.”

“I’m happy with the print & digital work I was brought in to do, rebranding JET, specifically with an urban millennial focus. We nailed it! EBONY was not my original intent or assignment, coming aboard — rather something I was asked to do, much later. I leave with great fondness toward Linda Johnson Rice and my colleagues. These are exceptionally tough times in publishing and I hope they figure it out.”

The American Society of News Editors announced a partnership with Google News Labs.

The American Society of News Editors announced a partnership with Google News Lab.

Journalists of Color at 16.6 Percent in ASNE Census

The American Society of News Editors announced today at the annual News Leadership Conference that minority journalists comprised 16.6 percent of the workforce in U.S. newsrooms that responded to this year’s Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey,” the group announced on Tuesday. “This finding shows only a half-percentage-point decrease from last year’s figure and is still several percentage points higher than the percentages recorded for much of the past two decades.

“In online-only news organizations, the survey found minorities comprised 24.3 percent, an increase from last year’s 23.3 percent.”

The ethnic breakdown [PDF] is:

  • White, 83.16 percent, up from 83.06 percent in 2016
  • Black, 5.64 percent, up from 5.33 percent.
  • Hispanic, 5.66 percent, up from 5.44 percent
  • American Indian, .36 percent, down from .39 percent
  • Asian, 4.28 percent, up from 4.25 percent
  • Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, .13 percent, down from .14 percent
  • Other, .57 percent, down from 1.38 percent
  • Unknown, .29 percent, not measured in 2016

In 1978, ASNE set a goal of achieving parity in newsrooms with the percentage of people of color in the general population by 2000. Twenty years later, the goal was changed to 2025. As with the previous goal, it is unlikely to be met.

In 2010, Hispanics or Latinos were 16.3 percent of the U.S. population; blacks or African Americans were 12.6 percent; Asians 4.8 percent; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders 0.2 percent; and Native Americans or Alaska Natives 0.9 percent. The census counted 6.2 percent as “some other race” and 2.9 percent as two or more races.

“ASNE also announced its new partnership with the Google News Lab, which has produced data visualizations of this year’s survey results and historical data dating back to 2001,” the ASNE release continued. “The News Lab’s newly launched interactive website (goo.gl/trends/asne) will serve as a visual archive of the ASNE survey data, in addition to the ASNE website at asne.org.

“The annual survey also found that 25.5 percent of the news organizations reported having at least one minority journalist among their top three editors, and 74.8 percent reported having at least one woman in a top-three position.

“The results summarize responses from 661 news organizations, including 598 newspapers and 63 online-only news websites. . . .”

In a statement, outgoing ASNE President Mizell Stewart III, vice president of news operations for Gannett and the USA Today Network, highlighted the organization’s emphasis on leadership training as a key to newsroom diversity. “We are seeing encouraging growth trends in the percentage of minorities and women in the top ranks of newsroom leadership,” he said. “ASNE believes that diverse leaders build diverse newsrooms, and our organization’s professional development efforts are oriented toward that goal.”

The group also said, “Earlier today, ASNE announced a $300,000 grant from the Democracy Fund, which will help create a more comprehensive and data-driven survey that catalogues newsroom diversity numbers for U.S. print and online publications. The Google News Lab and Knight Foundation are also key supporters of the annual survey. . . .”

Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Dia, Spanish-language product of the Dallas Morning News, succeeds Stewart as ASNE president.

Joseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, speaks Wednesday to a delegation from the American Society of News Editors. (Credit: State Department)

Joseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, speaks at the State Department Wednesday to a delegation from the American Society of News Editors, primarily editorial writers. (Credit: State Department)

State Dept., White House Differ on Media Issues

Despite President Trump’s demonization of the U.S. news media as an “enemy of the people,” the State Department is pushing back on governments overseas that seek to limit press freedom and is insisting that a free press is a cornerstone of American values and of democracy, State Department officials said Wednesday.

Those officials, speaking at an all-day briefing for members of the American Society of News Editors, chiefly editorial writers, also pointed to what the department spokesperson called an under-covered story: North Korea forcing some of its citizens to work for free overseas in what the department said amounts to modern-day slavery.

“A significant portion of their wages are taken by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] government, which has prioritized the extremely expensive nuclear and ballistic missile development over humanitarian needs of the North Korean people,” the department said.

The split in attitudes toward press freedom represented another difference between Trump and his State Department, whose leader, Secretary Rex Tillerson, is said to have called Trump a moron. In another split, the department said it favored a free and open internet, yet Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission appointed by Trump, has proposed eliminating net neutrality rules. The FCC is an independent agency.

President Trump started and ended his day Wednesday by lashing out at NBC and other American television networks,” Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter reported Wednesday for CNN Money. “He explicitly threatened the press by saying on Twitter that ‘network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.’

“It was a follow-up to the morning missive that reflected his fury over an NBC News report that said he wanted a tenfold increase in the United States’ nuclear arsenal. He decried ‘fake news coming out of NBC and the Networks’ and asked ‘At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!’ . . .”

In response, the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group, said it was contrary to First Amendment principles “for any government official to threaten the revocation of an FCC license simply because of a disagreement with the reporting of a journalist,” the Associated Press reported.

At a panel discussion Monday at the News Leadership Conference of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and Associated Press Photo Managers, international journalists said that Trump’s attacks on the U.S. media were emboldening authoritarian rulers overseas. They urged the U.S. government to speak out forcefully in defense of press freedom.

At Wednesday’s State Department briefing, attended by 31 journalists, officials insisted that they were already doing so. Francisco Palmieri, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in part by saying the U.S. opposes “any attempt to silence reporters” and advocates making “freedom of speech a right in all countries.”

Heather Nauert, the State Department spokesperson, said it is her practice to “speak out at press briefings” about nations that abuse reporters, citing Turkey as an example. Thomas Grove reported Wednesday for the Wall Street Journal that a “Turkish court sentenced Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak to two years and one month in prison Tuesday, declaring her guilty of engaging in terrorist propaganda in support of a banned Kurdish separatist organization through one of her Journal articles. . . .”

Journalists listen to State Department briefing. (Credit: Doualy Xaykaothao)

Journalists listen to State Department briefers. (Credit: Doualy Xaykaothao)

In fact, a member of “the bullpen,” the State Department press corps, would face persecution if the journalist returned home, Nauert said. She also said the Trump administration raised freedom-of-speech issues recently in meetings with the Chinese.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported last December that the 259 journalists in jail worldwide represented the highest number recorded since 1990.

A State Department official followed up by email on Nauert’s statement about North Korea’s use of forced labor.

“The conditions in which many North Korean overseas laborers work fall far below international labor standards,” a spokesperson said. “North Korean workers overseas are often subjected to conditions that may amount to forced labor, including working 12-16 hours per day with only one or two rest days a month and being confined to their quarters during non-work hours.

“North Koreans sent overseas do not have a choice in the work; the government ultimately assigns them and they are not free to change jobs. Their wages and passports are typically withheld by North Korean supervisors, and they face threats of government reprisals against them or their relatives in the DPRK if they attempt to escape or complain to outside parties.

“As Secretary Tillerson stated at this year’s rollout of the Trafficking in Persons Report, the North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the fruits of forced labor. Responsible nations simply cannot allow this to go on, and we continue to call on any nation that is hosting workers from North Korea to take further action to end this practice.”

The department then asked and answered its own question.

“Q: What does the Department think about the fact that what they’re making ends up in US markets and stores?

“The import of goods produced by forced labor is prohibited by U.S. law. Under the recently adopted Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), significant goods made with North Korean labor, including outside North Korea, is presumed to be made with forced labor.”

Essence, People en Español in Time Inc. Cutbacks

Time Inc. is cutting back on the circulation and frequency of some of its biggest titles, part of a far-reaching cost-reduction and restructuring program meant to ensure the profitability of its core brands, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reported Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal.

According to news reports, Essence magazine will be published 10 issues a year instead of 12, and People en Español will lower its circulation from 540,000 to 500,000 and cut two of its issues to print nine a year.

The company gradually will reduce the weekly circulation of its flagship Time magazine by one-third to 2 million copies,” Talking New Media reported. “That move is partly a recognition that it isn’t worth it to keep printing as many promotional copies. It also is aimed at focusing on a core audience considered more valuable to advertisers.

“Time Inc. also is reducing the print frequency of seven titles, including Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune. The move is based, in part, on its research showing that consumers have less time for leaning back with magazines.”

Trachtenberg reported in July that Time is looking to sell its majority stake in Essence, adding that Rich Battista, Time Inc.’s chief executive, told Trachtenberg that he hopes to complete a transaction by the end of the year.

From left: Paul Delaney, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Dorothy Gilliam discuss the Kerner Commission report Tuesday at the News Leadership Conference. (Credit: Caroline Hendrie‏ )

Mizell Stewart, president of the American Society of News Editors, introduces a discussion of the Kerner Commission report Tuesday at the News Leadership Conference. Panelists, from left: Paul Delaney, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Dorothy Gilliam and Al Fitzpatrick. Richard Prince moderated. (Credit: Caroline Hendrie‏ )

Whites Awarded for Stories on Black Communities

Molly Parker, a white reporter at the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill., told journalists Tuesday that when she first visited neglected housing units in Cairo, Ill., “I cried all the way home.” The city had been the victim of racism, greed and corruption, she said.

The housing, eventually taken over by the federal government after reporting by her newspaper, was built in 1942 on the site of a contraband camp, “contraband” being 19th century language for freed or fugitive slaves.

The Southern, as it is known, won a community journalism award from the Associated Press Media Editors, presented at the News Leadership Conference in Washington.

At the same conference, a panel discussion commemorated the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report on the urban uprisings of the 1960s. That panel, moderated by this columnist and including veteran journalists Paul Delaney, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Dorothy Gilliam and Al Fitzpatrick, discussed progress in newsroom diversity (Facebook Live video) in the years since the commission declared in 1968 that “the journalistic profession has been shockingly backward in seeking out, hiring, training and promoting Negroes.”

It said that the news media bore some responsibility for the uprisings partly because “they have not communicated to the majority of their audience — which is white — a sense of the degradation, misery, and hopelessness of living in the ghetto. . . .”

The awards ceremony Tuesday, which featured awards from APME and the American Society of News Editors, demonstrated that the news industry has increased its coverage of black communities.

Several other winning investigations reported on African Americans, such as “Beyond the Bullet” by a team from the Associated Press, which followed a boy’s adjustment to a new life in the aftermath of being shot on the streets of Chicago.

However, judging from those winners, the news business has not put African Americans in a position to report those stories, particularly if they are of the prize-winning investigative sort.

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor and columnist for the Detroit Free Press, was the only African American to accept an award, and his was for commentary/column writing.

For that reason, the New York Times Magazine’s Nikole Hannah-Jones and others last year helped launch the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, “a training and mentorship organization that aims to increase the numbers and retention rate of reporters and editors of color in newsrooms,” as Ricardo Bilton wrote in February for Nieman Lab. “. . . . The group is based on the idea that while investigative reporting is some of the most critical work journalists do, few of the people doing that work are non-white — a failure that Hannah-Jones says leaves a lot of stories uncovered or under-covered.”

Significantly, the Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership went posthumously to John C. Quinn, former editor-in-chief of USA Today, who understood the dynamics of diversity in its various dimensions.

“He and Al Neuharth, who at that time headed Gannett, were firmly committed to diversity — certainly because it was the right thing to do but also because it was the smart thing to do,” said Phil Currie, retired senior vice president for news at Gannett Co., accepting the award for Quinn. “The Gannett directive that ‘Our leadership should reflect our readership’ was one John not only talked about frequently but believed in deeply and — most importantly — executed faithfully.

“Under John and his successors, the Gannett Company’s diversity numbers were usually the best in the business.

“He even encouraged a bit of competition with our friends from Knight-Ridder, who also were committed to the cause. That rivalry helped boost diversity efforts nationwide.

“It also should be noted that building diverse staffs was often especially challenging on small community newspapers, of which Gannett had many. But John’s insistence that all voices be represented made a difference everywhere. . . .”

Text of Currie’s remarks at the end of this column.

From left, Claire Galofaro, Connie Schultz, Rochelle Riley and Michael Williamson at the News Leadership Conference on Tuesday. (Credit: Maddie Biertempfel, newsleaders2017)

From left, Claire Galofaro, Connie Schultz, Rochelle Riley and Michael Williamson at the News Leadership Conference on Tuesday. (Credit: Maddie Biertempfel, newsleaders2017.com)

Why It’s So Hard for Some to Relate to Voters

Newsrooms full of college-educated white people who don’t relate to the culture of the average Joe or Jane in “flyover country” are in part responsible for the failure of the news media to see a Donald Trump victory coming last year, according to panelists from the heartland who spoke at the News Leadership Conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Some Southern white men would rather vote for a black man as president than a Hillary Clinton, Michael Williamson, a white Washington Post photographer who thinks of himself as blue collar, said — and did. “At least he’s a dude,” one told him.

“I don’t know that we’re ready for a woman president,” a woman said to Claire Galofaro, a white Associated Press correspondent who documents rural America. Many women aren’t as concerned with breaking glass ceilings as in having food on the table and a husband with a job, they said. The economic recovery under former president Barack Obama did not touch everyone.

Rochelle Riley, an African American columnist with the Detroit Free Press, said some editors are more interested in “finding stories about black people that white people want to read” than in those about black people as they are. “If we can’t see how people are living, you don’t have any connection. That’s how newspapers die.”

Connie Schultz, a white, Pulitzer-winning columnist for Creators Syndicate from Ohio, was more blunt. “There are too many white editors,” she said. Some journalists of color just give up trying to persuade them to pursue more relevant stories. A former journalist at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Schultz also said she saw a change in what was considered newsworthy when the education level rose in the newsroom.

To Schultz, journalists have a role in bringing people together. She was dismayed when few whites showed up for the funeral of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old black boy fatally shot in 2015 by police who said they thought his pellet gun was real. She cast the tragedy as one to which mothers of any race could relate, but said it had not been framed that way.

“If a kid dies anywhere in this country, that’s one of my kids,” Riley agreed. She also urged reporters to pay more attention to black women, whose voter turnout dropped in the 2016 election, compared with 2012.

Williamson said his editors send him to trailer-park stories because he relates well with blue-collar people. “They ask, ‘How do you know the code?’ ” He said it was simply pointing out to his subjects how much they have in common. “They always say, ‘I didn’t know what a Washington Post reporter would look like,’ imagining a Bob Woodward, ‘but you don’t look like it.’ They say that in a good way. When I went to Iowa, they said, ‘I ain’t talking to you. You’re the liberal piece of shit’ ” who looks down on them. He said they feel invisible. But he gains their confidence with his demeanor and by keeping the discussion on their talking points, not his.

Williamson also said he doesn’t argue. To those who believed that Obama wasn’t born in this country, Williamson said he just marvels with them at how Obama was able to keep hidden all the paperwork that enabled him to conceal that he wasn’t really born in the United States. “Yeah, it is kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?” they reply.

What is often called racial is actually economic, Williamson said. Many will say they disagree with what Trump says, but they cannot afford not to back him if there was a 1 percent chance he can deliver on reopening a plant. Trump “understood the common guy’s hopes and fears and he plays them,” he said.

Public Editor Says Suspension of Hill is Worrisome

Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill

The uneasy relationship between Jemele Hill and ESPN spilled into public view again Monday, as the network suspended the SportsCenter anchor for two weeks after a series of tweets over the weekend in which she criticized a few NFL team owners and suggested a boycott of Dallas Cowboys advertisers,Jim Brady, ESPN’s public editor, wrote Wednesday.

“ESPN announced the suspension with a Monday afternoon tweet.

“While the statement wasn’t at all specific, it’s clear the tweets about an advertiser boycott were the trigger. It’s not hard to put the pieces together and interpret ESPN’s position:

“Hill’s mentioning of an advertiser boycott and criticism of league owners reflected negatively on ESPN, hence the suspension. . . .”

Brady also wrote, “But when it comes to this latest action by ESPN, I am a bit perplexed.

“Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what it is that upset ESPN about Hill’s actions: One of its highest-profile personalities suggested an advertiser boycott that would impact an important network partner, and she did so on Twitter, the same platform she used to call out Trump. And, make no mistake: Many of the NFL’s advertisers are also ESPN advertisers.

“Additionally, the calling for a boycott — or, at least, a strong encouragement of it — treads close to activism.

“But it’s not the job of Hill — or any other ESPN journalist, for that matter — to concern herself with the network’s business relationships.  . . . That’s why the company’s reaction to Hill’s tweets should be worrisome to other journalists at the company. . . .”

Short Takes

  • NBC News is finalizing plans to open a bureau in San Juan,” Chris Ariens reported Oct. 5 for TVNewser. “The network will rent a house where news crews will be based covering the story of the recovery after Hurricane Maria. NBC will have a full time presence for now, then periodically as the story warrants. . . .”

‘Our Leadership Should Reflect Our Readership’: Phil Currie’s Remarks on John Quinn

Phil Currie, retired senior vice president for news at Gannett Co., Inc., accepted the Robert C. McGruder Diversity Leadership Award on Tuesday from the American Society of News Editors on behalf of John C. Quinn. Here are Currie’s remarks:

John C. Quinn

John C. Quinn

On behalf of John Quinn and his family, I am honored to accept this prestigious award.

All who knew John sincerely thank you for recognizing his outstanding and longstanding diversity leadership.

John Collins Quinn was a personally delightful and professionally dedicated newsman with a great heart.

He made his mark on the industry as chief news executive of the Gannett Company and later as editor of USA TODAY.

I had the privilege of working directly with him for some 20 years. I saw how the diversity seeds he sowed blossomed and spread throughout the company and the country.

He and Al Neuharth, who at that time headed Gannett, were firmly committed to diversity – certainly because it was the right thing to do but also because it was the smart thing to do. The Gannett directive that “Our leadership should reflect our readership” was one John not only talked about frequently but believed in deeply and — most importantly — executed faithfully.

Under John and his successors, the Gannett Company’s diversity numbers were usually the best in the business.

He even encouraged a bit of competition with our friends from Knight-Ridder, who also were committed to the cause. That rivalry helped boost diversity efforts nationwide.

It also should be noted that building diverse staffs was often especially challenging on small community newspapers, of which Gannett had many. But John’s insistence that all voices be represented made a difference everywhere.

So did an All-American review that John began in Gannett with the help of Jay Harris, a national leader in building diversity. The aim was not simply to have minority members on news staffs but to have diverse voices in news columns.

That meant that experts of color in various fields were called on for comments along with the usual white counterparts. Newsroom staffs developed diverse source lists, and content was expected to reflect many voices.

When Gannett launched USA TODAY as the nation’s newspaper, it also sought to make staffing and content represent all aspects of our society.

Some argued that this was “formula journalism.” John saw it as making sure the newspaper was reflecting the full spectrum of our country.
This firm belief in the value of diversity — demonstrated by both his corporate commitment and his personal approaches — was reflected throughout the company in its newsroom leadership and in its publications.

A culture developed that inspired many of us working with John. His diversity aims became shared by a great number of Gannett editors, no matter their race.

It is significant, I think, that since the McGruder Award’s inauguration in 2002, eight Gannett editors and two Gannett newspapers are among the winners.

All can thank John.

Finally, as the video noted, after his retirement in 1990 and the death of his son Chips (who also was an editor), John and his late wife Loie established the Chips Quinn Scholars Program to provide journalism training, internships and ongoing mentoring to college students of color. More than 1,400 have gone through that program. It continues today, with nearly half of its graduates still in news careers.

John Quinn died July 11 at age 91. He was a man who cared deeply, inspired broadly and made good things happen nationally. He was, indeed, a Diversity Leader.

All who knew him shall miss him, and all who have labored in media — and their readers, viewers and listeners who benefited from diverse content — owe him our deep gratitude.

As for this award, I know John would have been thrilled to receive it. And as a past president of both APME [Associated Press Media Editors] and ASNE, he would be very pleased to know that this topic still matters to these organizations.

On his behalf, for that I also say thank you.

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