Speculation Centers on Value of Successful Festival

‘Washington Week’ Says It Follows Ifill on Diversity

Black Woman Promoted at Wall Street Journal

N.Y. Times Defends Profile of American Neo-Nazi

Tabloids Aside, British Take Markle’s Race in Stride

No Escaping Devastation for Puerto Rico’s Reporters

Reporter Spoke to Progressives Without Paper’s OK

Star Tribune Says Franken’s Apology Falls Short

Mugabe’s Fall a Bonanza for His Former Mouthpiece

Short Takes

It’s “Giving Tuesday”! . . .

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 South African singer-songwriter Palesa Masiya chats with Nomzamo Mbatha, actress and model, as they promote the Essence Festival Durban 2017. (Credit: YouTube)


South African singer-songwriter Palesa Masiya, left, chats with Nomzamo Mbatha, actress and model, as they promote the Essence Festival Durban 2017. (Credit: YouTube)

Speculation Centers on Value of Successful Festival

The Essence magazine brand will not be part of the historic, nearly $3 billion sale of Time Inc. to the Meredith Corp., a spokesperson for Time Inc. told Journal-isms on Monday.

Spokeswoman Jill Davison would not say why, but Samir Husni, the magazine specialist at the University of Mississippi known as “Mr. Magazine,” said that one reason could be the success of the Essence Festival.

The celebration, held in New Orleans and now also in South Africa, has become the largest magazine-sponsored festival in the world, Husni said.

“The recent Essence Festival in New Orleans attracted more than 470,000 people compared with more than 450,000 in 2016,” the Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reported in July. The first Essence Festival Durban attracted 61,000 in South Africa last year. A second took place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1.

“In 2015, Joe Ripp, then CEO of Time Inc., said in an interview that the Essence Festival in New Orleans earned more money than the magazine made in a year,” Trachtenberg wrote.

When Rich Battista, Time Inc.’s chief executive, said in July that Time was looking to sell its majority stake in Essence, he “cited Essence’s events business, its growing digital presence, and its long relationship with big marketers, as reasons for optimism,” Trachtenberg wrote.

“A new investor might have the resources to enable Essence to expand its growing events business at a time when many publications are seeking new revenue opportunities. . . .”

No potential suitors for Essence have surfaced in media speculation.

Time Inc. assumed a majority stake in Essence Communication Partners in 2005, ending the magazine’s status as a black-owned publication.

Davison told Journal-isms by email on Monday that despite the agreement to sell “all outstanding shares of Time Inc.,” publisher of such titles as Time, Sports Illustrated and People, to Meredith, Essence would not be included. Meredith is owner of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens and AllRecipes.

The current Essence issue.

The current Essence issue.

“With Essence, we are now pursuing a sale of 100 percent of the brand as opposed to maintaining a minority interest,” Davison said. People en Español, however, will be part of the sale. Essence reported a circulation of 1,060,248 as of June, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, while People en Español’s figure was 544,099. Both are monthlies.

News accounts Monday of the Time sale to Meredith focused on the larger titles such as Time, People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.

Meredith Corporation . . . announced today that it has entered into a binding agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Time Inc. . . .  for $18.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $2.8 billion,” an announcement Sunday night said.

“The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of Meredith and Time Inc., and is expected to close during the first quarter of calendar 2018. . . .”

More attention was given to the financial involvement of the conservative and libertarian Charles G. and David H. Koch.

The transaction received financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers,” Samantha Masunaga reported Monday for the Los Angeles Times. “Meredith said it secured $650 million from Koch Equity Development, the investment arm of Koch Industries, but the publisher said Koch Equity Development would not have a seat on the Meredith board and ‘will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.’

“After speculation of the deal began to bubble, media experts questioned whether the Koch brothers would use Time’s storied publications to promote their brand of conservative politics.

“In a conference call with analysts Monday, Meredith Chairman and Chief Executive Stephen Lacy reiterated that the Koch brothers would not demand any control despite their hefty investment.

“ ‘Their desire to be passive and not require a board seat,’ along with the financial terms of their investment, ‘without a doubt made the offer’ from the Koch brothers ‘the most attractive’ in terms of financing support available for the merger, Lacy said. . . .”

‘Washington Week’ Says It Follows Ifill on Diversity

A viewer of Friday’s edition of the PBS show “Washington Week,” just a week after the first anniversary of the passing of longtime host Gwen Ifill, would have seen a panel of veteran White House correspondents evaluating the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency and comparing it with the first year of previous presidents.

All members of the panel — Peter Baker, Ann Compton, Andrea Mitchell and Michael Duffy — along with moderator Robert Costa, were white, just as panelists were before Ifill arrived.

That was not representative of how the show has proceeded since it lost its beloved and respected African American host, according to Jeff Bieber, vice president, news and public affairs for WETA-TV, where “Washington Week” originates.

In fact, Bieber told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday, the show has tried to carry out Ifill’s vision of bringing along younger journalists, particularly those of color. “We have been schooled under the tutelage of Gwen Ifill,” said Bieber, who said he worked with Ifill for 18 years.

Bieber passed along a list of 24 new reporters who have joined the show since November 2016: Those of color are Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times; Geoff Bennett, NBC News (formerly with NPR); Ylan Mui, CNBC; Jeff Pegues, CBS News; Shawna Thomas, VICE; Yeganeh Torbati, Reuters; Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; and Franco Ordonez, Associated Press.

Among the veteran “Washington Week” reporters of color have been Michael Fletcher of the Undefeated; Nancy Youssef, Wall Street Journal; Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post; Greg Ip, Wall Street Journal; Michele Norris, NPR; Juana Summers, CNN; Pierre Thomas, ABC News; Ailsa Chang, NPR’s Planet Money; Abby Phillip, Washington Post and Manu Raju, CNN.

Bieber said that he and his team welcome suggestions for additional names. They must be journalists, not pundits, he said.

Black Woman Promoted at Wall Street Journal

Kimberley S. Johnson

Kimberley S. Johnson

Kimberly Johnson, most recently editor of the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal section, has been named professional products editor, becoming the highest-ranking African American in the newsroom.

In a staff announcement Monday published by Chris Roush in Talking Biz News, Stephen Wisnefski, deputy managing editor of professional news, called the new position “central to The Wall Street Journal’s efforts to provide business and financial professionals specialized content that helps them understand their industries, grow their businesses and advance their careers.”

Johnson will “lead a team of more than 60 journalists generating news, analysis and data for those products. Kimberly will also help set strategy for professional products, enhancing existing offerings and working with other senior editors and commercial colleagues to chart a course for new ones.”

Wisnefski also noted, “Prior to joining The Wall Street Journal in 2014, as news editor for CFO Journal, Kimberly spent five years covering financial activity in sub-Saharan Africa for various publications including Mergermarket, The Financial Times, Global Post, and The Africa Report magazine. She also helped launch financial intelligence services focused on Africa’s construction sector and Nigeria’s business environment.”

Women and journalists of color at the Journal have been reported to be restive.

The Wall Street Journal’s staff is about as diverse as the business world the paper covers: It’s essentially run by white men,Emily Peck reported in June for the Huffington Post. “A few star women have risen and departed over the years. And people of color are essentially missing from the top ranks. . . .”

N.Y. Times Defends Profile of American Neo-Nazi

‘POLITE,’ ‘low key,’ with Midwestern manners that ‘would please anyone’s mother,’…and also, a Nazi,Pete Vernon wrote Monday for Columbia Journalism Review. “The New York Times’s profile of 29-year-old Ohio resident Tony Hovater sparked outrage from the moment it was published over the weekend. Critics charged that it was a soft-focus puff piece of a man with despicable, dangerous views, while some defended it for exposing the banality of evil in American life.

“Recognizing the backlash, the piece’s author, Richard Fausset, published a first-person account of his struggle to wrestle answers from his interviews with Hovater. Admitting that he was unable to satisfactorily discover what made Hovater embrace such noxious beliefs, Fausset writes, ‘I beat myself up about all of this for a while, until I decided that the unfilled hole would have to serve as both feature and defect. What I had were quotidian details, though to be honest, I’m not even sure what these add up to.’

“Those details — from Hovater’s sautéing of ‘minced garlic with chili flakes’ to his Seinfeld fandom — humanize a man who marched with white supremacists in Charlottesville and believes that America would be better off as an ethno-nationalist state. The piece is heavy on banality, but fails to capture the evil that Hovater doesn’t even try to conceal.

“The Times’s national editor, Marc Lacey, apologized for ‘the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,’ but defended the decision to pursue the story. ‘What we think is indisputable,’ he writes in an editor’s note now linked at the top of the piece, ‘is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.’ . . .”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle discuss their engagement. Credit: CBS News)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle discuss their engagement. (Credit: CBS News)

Tabloids Aside, British Take Markle’s Race in Stride

A year ago, when the relationship between Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle was coming to light, Toronto writer Saada Branker wrote for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., “You gotta hand it to the British tabloids: they resisted the urge to go completely brazen with their coverage of Prince Harry’s relationship with Suits actress Meghan Markle.

“I mean, they could have run with headlines such as ‘Prince introduces woman of colour to royal family’ or ‘Half-black actress infiltrates blue blood pedigree.’ Instead, they stuck with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge approach in letting their readers know that Markle doesn’t quite fall in line with the fair-skinned, English-bred ladies previously escorted into Buckingham Palace on Harry’s arm. . . .”

But on Monday, after the announcement of the couple’s engagement, Gregory Katz wrote from London for the Associated Press, “Meghan Markle is the first person who identifies as mixed race to marry a senior member of the British royal family — but that caused barely a ripple in Britain on Monday amid speculation about her engagement ring and the site of the spring nuptials.

“The lack of focus on Markle’s heritage — her father is white and her mother is African-American — reflects Britain’s increasingly open attitudes toward race. . . .”

No Escaping Devastation for Puerto Rico’s Reporters

When El Nuevo Dia reporter Benjamín Torres Gotay came to a remote neighborhood in western Puerto Rico nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria, some residents thought he was with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Tiffany Stevens wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review. “Help, they hoped, had finally arrived.

“The Category 4 hurricane, which lashed the island with 150 mph winds and claimed more than 50 lives, seemed to linger in Lares, where Pezuela is located, Gotay later wrote in his story about the storm’s effect on the area. Neighborhoods faced daily torrential rain and subsequent landslides. Families rationed food and apportioned water. In one suburb, Gotay encountered a mother who had only two bottles of distilled water left, the only kind her sick 5-year-old son could drink.

“ ‘They were, frankly, desperate,’ the newspaper reporter says.

“Reporters from outside Puerto Rico have done important work to portray the storm’s devastating effects. Their coverage, however, doesn’t convey the long-term tasks awaiting local reporters like Gotay, who are left to document the storm’s toll on the island while also grappling with the same aftermath in their personal lives.

“Gotay has covered natural disasters before. In 2016, he went to Haiti to cover the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, where locals had almost no infrastructure and no functioning government. But he was able to end that trip with a sense of normalcy. A day after his last dispatch, he enjoyed drinks and live music with friends in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. After Hurricane Maria, there was no such escape from the devastation. . . .”

Reporter Spoke to Progressives Without Paper’s OK

Janell Ross

Janell Ross

Washington Post reporter Janell Ross gave a presentation at a secretive California gathering where Democratic politicians, liberal activists, and their biggest donors plotted the future of the progressive movement without notifying her superiors that she would be attending, according to a Post spokesman,” Brent Scher reported Wednesday for the Washington Free Beacon.

“The Democracy Alliance went to great lengths to keep the identities of its members and guests confidential at its fall investment conference last week at the La Costa Resort, but the Washington Free Beacon obtained a detailed conference agenda that lists both events and featured guests.

“Among them was Ross, a national reporter who closely covered the 2016 presidential campaign for the Washington Post and has since continued to cover the Trump administration.

“Ross sat on a panel to assist conference-goers on the topic of ‘getting the economic narrative right’ in future elections, according to the agenda, which can be viewed in full here. . . .”

Scher also wrote, “Ross told the Washington Free Beacon in a Monday email she was unable to answer questions on her appearance without clearance from the Washington Post‘s public relations team, to whom she reached out. Ross did not respond to numerous follow-up emails on Tuesday.

“The Washington Post said it was unaware Ross was at the Democracy Alliance conference until the Washington Free Beacon asked whether she had permission to be there.

” ‘We’ve only now learned about her participation in this event,’ said a spokesperson.

“The spokesperson added that Ross has been ‘reminded’ that the paper ‘discourages’ involvement in events that may be ‘perceived as partisan.’ . . .

“Ross appears to have explained that she was there to discuss a book she is working on independently from the Washington Post. . . .”

Star Tribune Says Franken’s Apology Falls Short

U.S. Sen. Al Franken broke his self-imposed silence over the weekend, submitting to a series of media interviews on the sexual misconduct allegations against him, professing his shame and embarrassment,” the Star Tribune in Minneapolis editorialized on Monday. “That was a necessary move — Minnesotans and the country at large deserved to hear from him. But his apology falls lamentably short in several respects.

“The Minnesota Democrat said in one interview it was important ‘that we listen to women,’ but then refuted the story of Leeann Tweeden, the USO entertainer who accused him of shoving his tongue down her throat during a rehearsed ‘kiss.’ He recalls ‘a normal rehearsal,’ but didn’t elaborate. On the subsequent allegations of women who say he groped them during photos — specifically, that he grabbed their buttocks — Franken apologized, but for what, exactly? . . .”

The editorial also said, “At least in the short term, Franken’s effectiveness will be hampered by persistent questions about the allegations, the ethics investigation and the lingering possibility that other women may come forward — something Franken does not dismiss.

“There has been other damage. Abby Honold, brutally raped by Daniel Drill-Mellum, a former Franken intern, had earlier this fall asked Franken to sponsor legislation to help rape victims.

“Honold sought a different sponsor after the Franken allegations came to light. But that has triggered a wave of vitriol from Franken’s supporters. Franken has said publicly he supports Honold’s decision, but he is unable to stop her from becoming collateral damage.

“Franken is right — he has much to do to regain Minnesotans’ trust. It may not be possible. As he continues his reflection, we urge the senator to consider what is best for Minnesota and to weigh that more heavily than what might be best for his political career.”

Reporters and editors plan the daily coverage of the Zimbabwe Herald. The state-owned newspaper was forced this month to cover the downfall of Robert Mugabe, whose rule it had long applauded. (Credit: Kevin Sieff/Washington Post)

Reporters and editors plan the daily coverage of the Zimbabwe Herald. The state-owned newspaper was forced this month to cover the downfall of Robert Mugabe, whose rule it had long applauded. (Credit: Kevin Sieff/Washington Post)

Mugabe’s Fall a Bonanza for His Former Mouthpiece

For 37 years, it was the official newspaper of Robert Mugabe,” Kevin Sieff reported Saturday for the Washington Post. “Then, this month, the staff of the Zimbabwe Herald got an impossible assignment: They would have to cover the downfall of their benefactor.

“In the days after Mugabe was detained by the military, editors and reporters gathered in a wood-paneled newsroom in an old office building downtown, trying to figure out what to do.

“Should they back Mugabe or the military takeover? Did they still have to echo the party line? What was the party line, anyway?

“Suddenly, a newsroom that had been the mouthpiece of the regime was without a censor. . . .”

Sieff also wrote, “It wasn’t just the Herald that seemed to be liberalizing. Arbitrary police checkpoints vanished overnight. Foreign journalists, once heavily obstructed, could move freely (including into the Herald’s newsroom). The demonstrations themselves were unimaginable only weeks ago.

“In the following days, the paper wrote front-page stories about Mugabe’s dismissal as head of the ruling party, ZANU-PF.

“It covered plans by the parliament to impeach the president. It ran op-eds in support of efforts to bring Mugabe down.

“ ‘We have no doubt that the biggest winner in this fiasco are the people of Zimbabwe,’ said one.

“Zimbabweans started posting pictures of the Herald on Twitter and Facebook, in disbelief that the newspaper of Mugabe had suddenly abandoned him. The paper had to increase its print run to keep up with demand. . . .”

Short Takes

Joanne Po

Joanne Po

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