Black Journalists Laid Off 2 to 1 at Philadelphia Inquirer; Bubba Brings Celebrity Circus to St. Petersburg
From the moment the industry began constricting years ago, advocates for diversity in newsrooms feared that journalists of color -- often the last hired already -- would be the first fired when layoffs were implemented.
Until recently, the fact that journalists of color are often younger and have less seniority actually worked in their favor -- making them less costly to media outlets in targeted layoffs. But not so at the Philadelphia Inquirer, which will lay off 14 to 16 black journalists this month among a total 71 people given pink slips effective Jan. 17, according to the National Association of Black Journalists.
NABJ on Wednesday sent a letter of protest to Inquirer co-owner, publisher and CEO Brian Tierney, the public relations whiz who bought the newspaper with a group of local investors last year. The group noted that up to 22 percent of those laid off would be black, though they only number about 11 percent of the newsroom employees -- meaning black journalists would be laid off at twice the rate of white employees.
Last year, the Inky bought out 70 employees. This year, it will slash 71 employees from a staff of 393. Here's a poignant column from entertainment business reporter Daniel Rubin. His descriptions remind me a lot of what happened around me when I worked at the Pittsburgh Press and it was sold to the Number Two paper in town, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and just 85 journalists kept their jobs from a staff of more than 200.
In the city and county of Philadelphia, black folks comprise about 45 percent of the population. But the newspaper which covers them will dip to it's lowest level of diversity in years, while also jettisoning 17 percent of its staff overall.
Some pundits may cast this as a problem mostly for publicly owned companies. But it is increasingly obvious that, no matter what the ownership structure, newspapers are having a tough time negotiating their perch between the rock of falling circulation/dipping ad rates and the hard place of rising newsprint and labor costs.
The very thing that makes a newspaper unique in media -- its sprawling reporting staff -- is increasingly something it cannot afford. No matter who owns it. So what kind of future does that hold for every other type of media, which depends on the work of newspaper journalists to fuel its ever-accelerating news cycles?
I Just Keep Snarking People Off
For the second time in my short career, I have landed on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal criticized this time for daring to suggest there is little good news to report from Iraq.
In his Best of the Web column, James Taranto took umbrage with a passage from my recent TV Hall of Shame piece, which castigated those who criticized the media for never reporting "good news" from Iraq. Silly me, I thought the public's growing discontent with the war, recent admission by the president and other war hawks that the mission wasn't going well and passages in the Iraq Study Group report criticizing the media for underreporting violence in the country was proof enough.
Not for Taranto: "Deggans doesn't actually dispute the contention that journalists suppress good news; he merely suggests that because war reporting is a dangerous business, it is bad form to criticize journalists."
I found it interesting that Taranto, and a few other readers who also emailed criticisms of that passage, ignored the part where I cited the Iraq Study Group's contention that, by focusing on violence which affects Americans, U.S. media was missing a lot of the sectarian violence that only targeted Iraqis.
I thought the inference was obvious: Since the study group says there is more violence going on than has been reported, and it is the most dangerous war ever for journalists, perhaps these are some clues that there isn't a whole lot of good news to outweigh the awful reality of this war.
For me, the whole exchange was further proof of how resistent some remain to acknowledging how seriously bad circumstances are there -- and will be for some time to come. (the first time I landed on the WSJ opinion page, was when author William McGowan wrote a huge op-ed complaining about black journalists' opposition to a book he wrote claiming the drive for diversity was damaging american newspapers. Of course, the WSJ refused to print my rebuttal letter.)
Bubba Brings a Three Ring Celebrity Circus to Town Next Week
I have it on good authority that shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge -- the man renowned for keeping a stripper pole in the new Tampa studio where he presents his Sirius radio show -- is getting married. To a woman who is not a stripper.
Indeed, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is scheduled to get married in St. Petersburg next week, with a wedding party which includes wrestler Hulk Hogan as best man. Bubba's boss, shock radio legend Howard Stern, also claims he will attend, renting a jet to bring down the entire crew from his show for the festivities. It all promises to unfold a few days after Bubba's one-year anniversary in the wilds of satellite radio -- amid rumors the Sponge is dissatisfied with his pay from Sirius and whispers the company may merge with rival XM.
I'll be getting more details on the nuptials in a few days, but it promises to be one of the weirder celebrity-tinged events the Bay area has seen in a long while.
Matt Lauer As the Old Man in the Morning?
The next time I saw him, he was trading quips with Bryant Gumbel as the newsreader on the today show, and I couldn't help wondering: Who is this guy?
On Friday, he will celebrate 10 years as co-anchor of Today -- and his comfortable status as senior anchor on a Katie-less today show which just keeps trouncing the competition -- with an on air celebration to rival the to-do which went down when Meredith Vieira joined the show back in September.
I said back then that Lauer was the show's secret weapon -- overshadowed first by Gumbel and later by Couric's 5,000-watt smile, he has stepped up to serve as the show's senior figure with deceptive ease, making Vieira's debut a seamless transition and preserving the show's gigantic ratings dominance.
So expect lots of genuflecting during the show's official celebration Friday and at least one flash of that shirtless photo from People magazine.