‘People Were Very Happy, Hugging, High-Fives’

Sources, Papers Tell Shocking Dennis Edwards Story

Writer Says Sports ‘Rioting’ Brings Races Together

Media Come Prepared for Black History Month

Don Carson Dies, Diversity Leader at U. of Arizona

Anticipation Builds for ‘Black Panther’ Movie

Actresses of Color Say Gatekeeper Preyed on Them

A ‘First’ Credits ‘Collective Brilliance and Generosity’

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Patrick Soon-Shiong, Forbes magazine's Sept. 29, 2014, cover story

Patrick Soon-Shiong, Forbes magazine’s Sept. 29, 2014, cover story

‘People Were Very Happy, Hugging, High-Fives’

Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, a Chinese American born in South Africa and one of the nation’s richest men, has agreed to buy the Los Angeles Times from its parent company Tronc, the Times reported on Wednesday.

“Smiles in the newsroom that have not been seen in months,” Michael Ottey, assistant national/foreign editor, told Facebook followers shortly after 6 a.m. local time. He messaged Journal-isms, “the smiles I speak of were also from yesterday when the possible deal was announced…people were very happy, hugging, high-fives….I think today as it’s now a done deal there will be even more joy.”

The sale was portrayed as “restoring local ownership and perhaps ending a turbulent period for the storied 136-year-old institution,” Meg James reported at 5:50 a.m. local time for the Times.

“Chicago-based Tronc on Wednesday will announce the sale of The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Soon-Shiong’s investment firm Nant Capital for nearly $500 million in cash, according to a source familiar with the deal. In addition to the purchase price, the deal includes the assumption of $90 million in pension liabilities.

“The sale comes after a particularly stormy period for the newspaper, which has seen three editors in six months, its publisher placed on unpaid leave amid a sexual harassment investigation, and a historic vote to unionize the newsroom. . . .”

A spokeswoman for the News Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, an organization of newspaper publishers, said the group did not know how many publishers were Asian American. Yvonne Leow, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said by email, “AAJA has no official comment on the prospect of Patrick Soon-Shiong becoming the owner of the LAT. We historically have not commented on the racial ethnicity/background of media owners.”

It is certain that an Asian American owner of a major newspaper is a rarity, however. But that was not a focus of most news accounts. Soon-Shiong’s quirky business record received more scrutiny.

Soon-Shiong has less media chops in his past than even Tronc’s people,” Kevin Roderick wrote Tuesday for LA Observed. “He is another wild card whose plans for the Times (and Union-Tribune) are completely unknown.

Story from Oct. 1, 2009

Story from Oct. 1, 2009

“Soon-Shiong has talked about owning the Times before and became a large minority investor in Tronc, only to be squeezed aside by Ferro,” a reference to Chicago investor Michael Ferro, Tronc chairman. “He was told last year that the Times was not for sale. How Soon-Shiong would actually operate a newspaper is mostly unknown. He bristles at coverage of his own companies and controversies, but he appears to see the value in hometown ownership of the Times. His daughter Nika was a reporting intern at the paper for two summers a few years ago.

“Soon-Shiong, 65, was born in South Africa to parents who fled China during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Forbes pegs his net worth at $7.8 billion, putting him at number 55 on the Forbes 400. He sold the drug companies Abraxis and American Pharmaceutical Partners for a combined $9.1 billion and currently owns NantWorks, a network of health startups. His biotech startup, NantHealth, went public in 2016, Forbes says — his cancer drug maker, NantKwest, listed in 2015. He also owns a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers. . . .

“Depending on the year, he is sometimes listed as the richest man in Los Angeles or somewhere in the very top tier. He has complained in the past about media coverage of his companies and their practice of paying his foundation ‘for the Los Angeles area property where his companies are housed,’ the health site StatNews says.

“Stat last year also said that its investigation found that Soon-Shiong’s plan to eradicate cancer under his Cancer MoonShot 2020 project has made ‘very little scientific progress.’ Per Axios, ‘the publication said it appears to be a marketing ploy for the doctor to promote his expensive new cancer diagnostic tool.’

“Stat and others wrote in 2016 and 2017 about Soon-Shiong’s attempts to get close to Donald Trump and become a health advisor to the Administration. . . .”

Nevertheless, James Rufus Koren, Thomas Curwen and Melody Petersen wrote Wednesday in a profile of Soon-Shiong, “Soon-Shiong has been an investor in Tronc since 2016. At the time of that initial investment, he told The Times he wanted to ‘save the integrity’ of the publication.

” ‘We need newspapers,’ he said. ‘We need this intellectual integrity. We need writers and editors who are passionate about this work.’ ”

The profile also noted, “Soon-Shiong received his medical degree at the University of Witwatersrand, where in the late 1970s he treated South Africans who had been injured during the Soweto riots.

“He interned at Johannesburg’s General Hospital, which had never admitted a Chinese student before, Soon-Shiong has said. The chairman of the department stipulated that his application would not be accepted unless he finished better than fourth in his class, which he did. He worked in the cancer wing, where he remembers an Afrikaner patient who refused to be treated by a ‘Chinaman.’ . . . ”

In 2013, Soon-Shiong told Gabriel Kahn of Los Angeles magazine that he saw parallels between apartheid and the American health care system. “If you look upon chronic diseases as an epidemic and you see that the chronically ill are the poor, then you see that this issue of the uninsured is not really a moral but a financial obligation to change health care,” he said.

He also pledged $100 million to reopen Dr. Martin Luther King Hospital in South Los Angeles, among other gifts.

Dennis Edwards photographed at the Peabody Opera House, on Feb. 4, 2013, (Credit: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Dennis Edwards photographed at the Peabody Opera House, on Feb. 4, 2013 (Credit: Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Time on Motown Beat Led Writer to Abuse Charges

The death last Thursday of Dennis Edwards, a lead singer of Motown’s classic singing group the Temptations, saddened many of his fans. But the news the following Tuesday was shocking, and one of the reporters who broke that story says, “It’s a matter of sources trusting you, and also — the documents.”

Erin Heffernan and Denise Hollinshed reported Tuesday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Court documents filed by an adult protective services investigator allege that weeks before the singer’s death, Brenda Edwards abused her husband.

“An investigator with the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois filed the protection order request on behalf of Dennis Edwards Jan. 12 in Chicago, where the couple lived together before Edwards’ death” in a Chicago hospital.

“The documents allege that Brenda Edwards had attempted to suffocate the 74-year-old by holding his head facedown on a bed. The investigator also accused Brenda Edwards of taking her husband’s hearing aids from him, according to a petition for an order of protection. The documents say Edwards was ‘bed bound and immobile.’

“Dennis Edwards was removed from the home because of medical issues, according to the Jan. 12 document.

Susan Whitall

Susan Whitall

“An emergency protective order against Brenda Edwards was granted Jan. 18, barring her from contact with Dennis Edwards. A hearing that would have allowed Brenda Edwards to respond to the allegations was scheduled for Friday, but was canceled after her husband’s death the day before.

“The protective order was vacated on Friday, after Dennis Edwards’ death. . . .”

Though Edwards most recently lived in Chicago, he also had lived in St. Louis County, Mo. (video), and in Detroit, where Motown was based.

Longtime Motown writer Susan Whitall of the Detroit News was also on the story. “My editor at the News had me do an obit on Dennis,” Whitall told Journal-isms by email. “I’d interviewed him several times over the years, and I’d written a lot about Norman Whitfield and the whole psychedelic soul era of the Tempts. I’d just done a long essay about ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ and the use of classical musicians at Motown for the Kresge Foundation last year.

“After the obit on Dennis ran, I started hearing from various sources about what might be going on. I reached out to some varied sources, they reached back to me. As usual one thing leads to another, and yeah — quite a lot had been going on.

“It’s a matter of sources trusting you, and also — the documents. So much is in there.”

Whitall wrote a more detailed story with staff writer Oralandar Brand-Williams. In addition to a denial of wrongdoing from Edwards’ wife, carried by both news outlets, Whitall quoted one of Edwards’ daughters, Issa Pointer-Stewart, who was appointed the singer’s power of attorney, saying she never heard his doctors say he had meningitis, the purported cause of death.

“We’d been working on it since Saturday when my colleague Motown beat writer Susan Whitall first had a conversation with an Edwards family member and was ready to go,” Brand-Williams messaged, referring to the story. “Always wanting our reporting to be solid, we just needed the cops statement and Brenda Edwards comments so we went up a few hours later than the STL Post Dispatch.”

Whitall elaborated, “I’ve always liked to put details in stories, where possible. It’s a human being, not just a name on a protection order. And for Detroiters, Motown stars are personal, in many cases they are also from our neighborhoods. I once asked Dennis the usual Detroit question — what were your cross streets? It was Chene and Gratiot, for him. Cass Tech. Eastern High. For years before Motown, he sang in a ‘bucket of blood’ club called Maul’s, on Joy Road. [Singer] Bettye LaVette and [arranger] Paul Riser used to see him there a lot, I believe he met Aretha at that time as well.”

Reporters for the Post-Dispatch did not respond to requests to discuss their story.

Writer Says Sports ‘Rioting’ Brings Races Together

On “the night of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, revelers smashed store windows and looted a gas station,” Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia, wrote Wednesday for the Daily News in New York. “They threw bottles, climbed poles, and brought down an awning at a hotel.

“But only four people have been arrested so far, which has created a new controversy in the blogosphere about America’s oldest dilemma: race. Whereas black people were roundly condemned for rioting after police shootings in Ferguson and Baltimore, critics said, white people rioting after a football victory in Philadelphia got a free pass.

” ‘You can riot if you’re white and your team wins, but if you’re black and being killed, you can’t speak out,’ declared Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter New York.

“He’s got a point. People here have been sharing video of the Philadelphia mayhem on social media, drawing likes and laughs. How many of these folks giggled when rioters set fires and turned over cars in Ferguson and Baltimore? That was serious, and — for white people — it was scary.

“But while whites certainly represented the majority of the revelers after Super Bowl, there were lots of black people out on the streets as well. And if you don’t think they engaged in the same ugly behaviors as everyone else, watch the videos yourself. You’ll see.

“And that’s what truly marks this moment as different from typical patterns of violence in cities like Philadelphia. Across our history, periodic outbreaks of hostility have pit the races against each other. But sports-related violence puts them on the same side. . . .”

Issue features about 30 writers and runs 120 pages.

The issue features about 30 writers and runs 120 pages.

Media Come Prepared for Black History Month

Of all the media commemorations of African American history in February, USA Today’s Black History Month 2018 Special Edition is among the most ambitious.

At 120 pages of newsprint and selling for $4.95, its theme is “Martin Luther King Jr.: 50th Anniversary: 1929-1968: Commemorating His Dream.”

It features about 30 writers, according to issue editor Nichelle Smith. “All of the writers are so enthusiastic and passionate about it and it’s a pleasure to work with people who are so motivated to see good work done and who truly bring their A-game every time,” she said by email.

Smith also wrote, “There are about 6-8 of us who take time away from the regular jobs to put this together, production wise, and probably another dozen people in advertising, marketing, circulation and other departments who do their thing. It’s part of a larger group of special publications we do that include sports, travel, veterans and other special interest topics.

“This book is typically one of the largest at 120 pages, nearly half are ads. It’s also among USA TODAY’s top 10 in revenue generation. . . . Also, this year I had about 10 other editors pitch in from around the USA TODAY network to help by assigning some stories at their papers and doing first edits.”

As King personifies the issue’s theme, his role in the civil rights movement is emphasized to the diminution of other civil rights leaders, such as Whitney Young and Vernon Jordan of the National Urban League; James Farmer and Floyd McKissick of the Congress of Racial Equality; Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) and James Forman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Dorothy Height of the National Council of Negro Women, each specializing in different aspects of the movement.

PR Week says, “At the start of Black History Month, this special PRWeek video brings diversity conversations to the forefront. This is what it’s like to be black in PR.”

The Associated Press Race and Ethnicity Team, in coordination with the AP Sports desk, launched “Game Changers,” a project focused on black athlete activism.

“While the most current form of black athlete protest has come from the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to systemic racism, they are part of a long tradition of men and women who have used the platform of sports to contribute in the struggle for racial progress,” Errin Haines Whack, AP’s race and ethnicity writer, said by email on Friday.

“Game Changers launched Thursday with an exclusive survey of 56 of the 59 black players in last weekend’s Pro Bowl. All responded that they or someone they know has directly experienced racial profiling by police. The series has also highlighted the contrasting approaches of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Cavaliers player LeBron James, as well as an explanation of why black athletes have never simply ‘stuck to sports.’

“The series will continue through February and will look at a century of activism by black athletes.”

NBCBLK inaugurated a #BLKHistory theme with a special feature that included thoughts from some of NBC’s anchors, correspondents and contributors on what being African American means today, along with the importance of Black History Month. Some spoke about their African/Caribbean immigrant ties.

At the local level, “Weigel Broadcasting’s independent WCIU Chicago . . . and Chicago hip-hop artist Che ‘Rhymefest’ Smith are again collaborating for Black History Month with a special broadcast, Black History: The Movement,” Mark K. Miller reported Jan. 30 for TVNewsCheck.

The half-hour special was to premiere on Sunday, with WCIU’s weekday morning show, “The Jam,” airing portions of the special every Thursday in February.

“Included are a series of in-depth interviews between Che and leaders from Ghanaian, Mexican, Haitian and local black communities spotlighting the individual struggle for independence in their native lands, and its correlation to the continued fight for freedom as an American. . . .

“ ‘This project was community driven,’ said Che. ‘Whether it’s the Ghanaian community or the Haitian community who fought for their independence hundreds of years ago, if we broaden our definition of blackness, we can learn a lot from people who already won the struggles that we’re currently going through. It’s about opening up that conversation and adding to collective numbers here in America to build stronger communities.

“Steve Bailey, WCIU’s head of local programming and creative, said: ‘We’re taking a non-traditional approach to celebrating Black History Month this year, showcasing the different walks of life and perspectives of the community. Our goal is to create a forum where we can all learn, understand and move forward as one.’ ”

Donald Carson, at extreme right, with the Editing Program for Minority Journalists in 1980 at the University of Arizona at Tucson. (Credit: Frank Sotomayor)

Donald Carson, at extreme right, with the Editing Program for Minority Journalists in 1980 at the University of Arizona at Tucson. Frank Sotomayor, who directed the program, is seated next to Carson on the copy desk “rim.” (Credit: Frank Sotomayor)

Don Carson Dies, Diversity Leader at U. of Arizona

Donald W. Carson, a revered professor in the University of Arizona journalism program and one of the early leaders in helping diversify the nation’s newsrooms, died in Tucson on Feb. 1,” the university reported on Jan. 31. “He was 85.

“Carson, a 1954 UA journalism graduate, reported for the Arizona Daily Star and The Associated Press in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., before returning in 1966 to join the faculty. He was director of the school from 1978-1985 and retired in January 1997.

The university also wrote, “In 1980, Carson helped [launch] the Editing Program for Minority Journalists at UA with Frank Sotomayor, a 1966 graduate of the school. The summer program, sponsored by the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, trained hundreds of minority editors from across the country, using UA students as reporters.

“For nearly 20 years, Carson also drove UA minority journalism students to the California Chicano News Media Association’s annual job opportunities conference in Los Angeles. In 1995, he received a plaque from the association that read: ‘Professor Don Carson, University of Arizona. You have gone the extra mile for diversity. We need more people like you. Gracias.’ Many former students obtained their first summer jobs through the conference.

“Carson, a three-time Fulbright professor, was honored for his diversity efforts by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Conference of Editorial Writers and the Institute for Journalism Education. . . .”

Chadwick Boseman in "The Black Panther" (Credit: Marvel Studios)

Chadwick Boseman in “The Black Panther” (Credit: Marvel Studios)

Anticipation Builds for ‘Black Panther’ Movie

Fatima Barrie has never watched a superhero movie and rarely goes to the cinema at all, but for ‘Black Panther,’ she bought a ticket a month in advance (paywall) ,” John Jurgensen and Ben Fritz wrote Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal.

“Her reasons boil down to this: ‘It was exciting to see all those black people,’ says the 25-year-old teacher and writer in South Brunswick, N.J. ‘People who look like me.’

“The Marvel film, opening next Friday, features one of the first black superheroes in comic books, and its resonance for African-American moviegoers is transforming a typical action-movie rollout into a full-blown cultural event. Disney, which owns Marvel, hopes to translate that into the first international blockbuster whose cast and crew are mostly black.

Chadwick Boseman plays the title role in ‘Black Panther,’ an heir to the throne of the fictional African nation of Wakanda who possesses uncanny senses, strength and speed. With help from a female special-forces squadron, he protects his isolated, wealthy and technologically advanced kingdom from threats, including a villain played by Michael B. Jordan.

“Prerelease surveys indicate ‘Black Panther’ could open to $150 million or higher in the U.S. and Canada over the four-day Presidents Day weekend. In advance sales, ‘Black Panther’ is the top-selling superhero movie this far ahead of its release on the Fandango ticketing site. . . .”

Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press race relations reporter and comic book aficionado, published “Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther?,” his first full-length adult novel, in November. He is scheduled to participate in at least one panel discussion on the movie.

Actresses of Color Say Gatekeeper Preyed on Them

Journalists of color have been noticeably absent from the investigative reporting that is uncovering sexual misdeeds of high-profile men and jump started the #MeToo movement, but Tracy Jan of the Washington Post, who is Asian American, has broken through.

Jan reported Friday for the Post:

Tracy Jan

Tracy Jan

Tamika Lamison was a 27-year-old stage actress living in New York City in June 1996 when she stepped into Hollywood manager Vincent Cirrincione’s hotel suite, excited by the unexpected opportunity to audition for the man behind Halle Berry’s rising stardom.

“Lamison said she had been introduced to Cirrincione the previous night by one of his clients at the Tony Awards dinner. Soon after her arrival at the hotel, Cirrincione’s phone rang. It was Berry. He put the famous actress on speaker as Lamison listened in silently, in awe — thinking that perhaps Cirrincione could steer her own acting career to Hollywood success in an industry with few leading roles for African American actresses like her.

“When the call ended, Lamison began reciting a poem she had written. Midway through her performance, she said, Cirrincione grabbed her and started kissing her, sticking his tongue in her mouth. . . .

“Lamison is among nine women — eight African Americans and one Asian American — who have told The Washington Post that Cirrincione made unwanted sexual advances toward them over a period of two decades. Several said they viewed Cirrincione, who is white, as an important gatekeeper for black actresses in an industry notoriously difficult to break into — one whose path is even more narrow for minorities. They said he took advantage of that dynamic to prey upon young women of color seeking an entry into Hollywood. . . .”

A ‘First’ Credits ‘Collective Brilliance and Generosity’

Over the years The New York Times has been criticized for failing to diversify the gender and race of its staff and leadership,” Kelly Virella wrote Monday for the New York Times Insider. She was interviewing Monica Drake, who was promoted in December to assistant managing editor, overseeing special digital projects across the newsroom.

Monica Drake

Monica Drake

“In recent years, it has made significant strides in both areas,” Virella continued. “You are the first black woman to be appointed to the print masthead of The Times. How does that feel?”

Drake replied, “Any barrier being broken is a signal that society and institutions have progressed, so I celebrate that.

“I also need to point out that this promotion — and the career that I’ve had — is a result of the collective support of the people who have guided me throughout my life and career.

“They include my maternal grandfather, a former sharecropper and auto factory worker; my grandmother, a former domestic worker; my mother, who raised three kids while putting herself through medical school; my twin brother, a scientist who has been a constant companion and nurturer; Dana Canedy, the former senior editor without whose guidance and mentorship I simply wouldn’t be here; Janet Elder, the recently deceased deputy managing editor and the fiercest advocate anybody could hope for; Dean Baquet, our executive editor, who wears a million hats, including stealth mentor; and Greg Winter, the deputy international editor, a great journalistic mind who happens to be my husband.

“So yes, this milestone feels great, especially because it’s a reflection of the collective brilliance and generosity of these people and countless others.”

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