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From The Archives POLITICS ARCHIVE THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

The Avengers: Journalists of the Right Rejoice

A happy new year to you, and now let’s lend an ear to some of our more prominent national commentators who have in the last few weeks or days proposed:

• The mining of Iranian harbors;
• The threatened mining of Cuban ports;
• The theorem that opposition to General Haig’s appoint­ment is tantamount to appeasement of the Soviet Union;
• The resurrection of the House and Senate Internal Security committees;
• The appointment of Henry Kissinger as secretary of state;
• The notion that Ronald Reagan has confirmed the view of 19th century German philosophers that “if we could but pierce the veil of appearances we would see that History is intelligible, logical and progressive.”
• The … but let us pause for a moment, doff our hats, and listen to the words of James Reston, vintage ’45:

“The principle that governs the press, or should govern it, is that the selling of news is a public trust. When the reporter writes a story that affects the interests of the people and the newspaper sells it, they in effect say to the reader: here is the truth to the best of our knowledge; these are the true facts; you can base your judgement on them, in the full knowledge that in this country the judgements of the people de­termine our actions as a na­tion.

“The same kind of rela­tionship exists between a doc­tor and his patients. The doc­tor affects the physical well-being of his patients; the reporter affects the men­tal well-being of his readers; unlike the doctor, the reporter is neither asked nor permitted to prescribe what his readers need to make them ‘well.’ But, like the doctor, he has the opportunity to poison them, and the main difference, it seems to me, is merely that the reporter can poison more of them quicker than the doctor.

“The reporter is thus performing a social and public service of the highest possible value …”

It’s a little unclear, actually, whether Reston was talking about the provision of truth or poison when he invoked “service of the highest possible value.” That was back in 1945. Today, certainly, it’s just a matter of citing poison of choice.

Every age gets the journalism it de­mands and the journalism it deserves. Right now, ankle-deep in the Reagan era, the situation looks pretty grim.

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A Straight Line
The proposals quoted at the start of this article stem from William Safire, Nor­man Podhoretz, Patrick Buchanan, James Reston, and (the one about History) George Will. These propagandists and their colleagues on publications from The Wall Street Journal to The New Republic — a shorter distance than you might sup­pose — are the paramount cantsmen of our time, our ranking opinion molders, hegemonic, as poor old Gramsci used to say.

Once in a while newspapers and news magazines take an interest in facts and encourage reporters to go out and discover them. Probably the last time this occurred was in the “investigative era” of Water­gate. Facts everywhere you looked back in 1974, and the readers couldn’t get enough of them. Investigative journalism was the dominant idiom. But it all dragged to a halt in the late ’70s and our friends the cantsmen took over as the dominant force.

By way of illustration, consider the coverage given of Richard Allen. All through the campaign of 1980 Allen was Reagan’s chief foreign-policy adviser. The Voice, in early summer, raised the possi­bility of a million-dollar bribe request from Allen when he was in the Nixon White House. No commotion ensued, which was not particularly surprising. On the eve of the Republican convention Mother Jones displayed the slimier aspects of Allen’s record in considerable detail. In the brave old days of full-tilt investigative journalism Allen would have been denying on the first day, unavailable the next, and over the side of the Good Ship Reagan by cock-crow on the third. Not in 1980. Then, on the eve of the election, Jonathan Kwitny of The Wall Street Journal gave Allen’s record a heavy dose of carpet-bombing. This time Allen did take himself out of the Reagan com­paign. Not for long. Here he is, back again as national-security adviser to President-­elect Reagan and not much the worse for his experience.

It isn’t that investigative journalists did not do their best, it’s more that nobody particularly cared. Same thing with Haig. When news of his impending appointment as secretary of state began to circulate, The Washington Post dutifully stamped on his fingers, reciting infamies of the (bad old days of) Watergate. Anthony Lewis uproared in The New York Times. Reagan smiled, went to the barbershop (“Get me the president!” “He’s under the drier.”) and the nomination of Haig proceeded apace. The Washington Post stamped on his fingers a little harder, displaying at length his record as an accomplice in crimes and misdemeanors, and all reliable sources agreed that his confirmation is virtually assured.

Time was when the announcement that the prospective secretary of labor was in the construction business in northern New Jersey would have sent the investigative teams surging forth high in heart and appetite. In fact someone did surge forth, and duly reported that there was this little matter of a payment to a political slush fund and so forth, and next thing you knew everyone was talking about the Times Sunday magazine story on the de la Rentas. (“In the rarefied atmosphere of New York society, Francoise and Oscar de la Renta have created a latter-day salon for le nouveau grand monde — the very rich, very powerful and very gifted.” Hard to know where that leaves the magazine’s editor, Ed Klein, but that’s another story.)

So far has the pendulum swung that when Ronald Reagan came out from under the drier to suggest that it was really enormously big-hearted of these big busi­nessmen to momentarily abandon their huge salaries and sink their teeth into big government — a step down, I think he said­ — no one got too exercised at this particular way of commending a cabinet to the coun­try.

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Opinion in Disguise
Outrage has become a sort of hiccup: Reagan appoints his personal attorney; Reagan appoints noted phone-tapper; Reagan appoints pre-eminent environ­mental rape & pillage man to run Interior; Reagan … Oh well. Then he calls the Iranians “barbarians” and vanishes under the drier again.

What has happened is investigative journalism — conducted from the liberal end of the journalistic end of the spectrum — was the appropriate mode to deal with Watergate. In its period of baroque decline which followed, it became the weapon with which William Safire harried the Carter administration. Bad luck for Bert Lance, but it didn’t do much, long-term, for investigative journalism.

Amid the ebb of investigative journal­ism, opinion mongering became the pre­ferred mode, in reconsolidating consensus post-Vietnam and in battering flat the fringe of progressive or liberal ideas that accompanied Jimmy Carter into office in 1976. The opinion-mongers sometimes came in semi-disguise.

Consider the post of what we may call the national security correspondent of The New York Times. Once upon a time this slot was filled by Leslie Gelb. In this particular firmament, pre-Carter, he could be described as a liberal in matters of defense, arms sales, and so forth. He later joined Cyrus Vance’s State Depart­ment. Gelb’s place was taken by Richard Burt, formerly of the Institute of Strategic Studies in London, who vastly impressed A. M. Rosenthal as the person best suited to bring some hawkish snap back into the Times‘s defense-cum-national security coverage in the Carter era.

For four years Burt banged the Brzezinski/Brown drum in The New York Times. Now paralleling the elevation of Gelb, he is accompanying Haig into the State Department. This job at the Times is becoming so politicized that Rosenthal should properly hold confirmation hear­ings for his successor.

There is, then, the Richard Burt type of opinion-mongering, dressed up in the cloak and whiskers of “high sources,” “high of­ficials,” and “intelligence analysts.” In­sidious and highly effective. People stopped talking about Pentagon boondog­gles and cost overruns (old days of in­vestigative-journalism) and began to worry about the encryption menace to SALT II.

With that treaty now trodden safely underfoot, maybe the trend will swing back to boondoggles. Grumman made the enormous mistake of allowing the civilian sector (New York City) to examine one of its products at close quarters. Perhaps someone will ask why we should believe that a corporation which cannot get a bus to the next corner can get a plane to the next war.

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Role Call
But nowadays, Burt aside, most opin­ion comes dressed nakedly, as opinion. The day of the conservative columnist, editorialist, even “news analyst” has come round again: The tasks are simple enough: restoration of confidence in conservative ideas, business ideals, and imperial verve. The executives are familiar, in the shape of Safire, George Will, Buckley, the Com­mentary gang, the editorials of The Wall Street Journal, Peretz’s slice of The New Republic, the Georgetown mob, the Kissinger claque (overlapping), and the ideo­logical imperatives more or less summed up in the thoughts of Norman Podhoretz and the Mobil commentaries.

The executive-level columnists operate in differing tempi of malignity. There are the traditional courtiers: a Hugh Sidey in Time, a Reston in The New York Times, for whom the essential project is to crook the pregnant hinges of the knee and gobble cock. Whether Nixon’s, Rockefeller’s, Ford’s, Carter’s, or now Reagan’s is almost irrelevant. Form here dominates content.

Such courtiers aside, you can take your pick in almost any paper from here to Los Angeles: the manly parafascism of a Bu­chanan or a Buckley, whose recent trip to Latin America produced a rich trove for his fans, as in this magnanimous report on the Pinochet regime: “But no American can say, with any sense of historical au­thority, what liberty he would now be enjoying if he had had a bout with Salvador Allende. Certainly those Ameri­cans who wrote the laws governing licit political activity in Germany after Hitler understand what some people consider to be the imperatives of political re-educa­tion.”

For those who find these two a little raw, there is the high-toned approach of George Will, who preferred Baker to Bush and Bush to Reagan until, the victor clear­ly in view, he discovered that the Califor­nian had realized the views of the German philosophers quoted here. Since he quotes dead people a lot, Will is commonly re­garded as a man of culture and refine­ment. And as befits such a gentleman, you sometimes have to read him twice to dis­cover what he is actually saying. For ex­ample: “In the 1970s the nation deferred investment in productive capacity, de­ferred investment in defense, even de­ferred having babies. I do not think it is fanciful to see a connection between the conservative tide from the polling booths and the bustle of activity in maternity wards. The decade of deferment is over. The nation now says what the philosopher says (Waylon Jennings, philosophizing in song about Luckenbach, Texas): ‘It’s time we got back to the basics of life.’ ”

The notion here seems to be that the Democratic way of life is sterile, that “the basics” amount to having babies and then wars to get rid of the results. This is like the recent endorsement of the American insurance companies for fat— that Ameri­cans should be fatter, and thus more able to tolerate chemotherapy in old age. Given Reagan’s plans for the environment (cancer), this may not be such a bad plan.

For those who find Will a shade pom­pous there is Emmett Tyrrell Jr., pasticheur in sub-Menckenese, for Meg Greenfield, high priestess of The Washing­ton Post ed and op ed, representative of neo-conservatism with a human face. The prose is cute but not the sentiments, at least au fond as we say in the restaurant business.

I could ramble on down the broad high­ways of mainline journalistic con­servatism: and sometimes it is almost comical to spend a morning’s newspaper reading trudging through the familiar ter­rain, from Kraft to Evans & Novak to the incoherent hysteria of the New York Post‘s editorial columns.

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Safire’s Passive Bombs
Liberals often confess to a frisson of pleasure in reading an artful dodger like Safire. And his views are indeed sometimes diverting, as in, “The idea [Safire’s, or Nixon’s, not always clear whose] is to threaten to mine Cuba’s four main ports. Mines are a passive weapon; no ships are sunk unless they choose to detonate the mines …” In the same way, we must assume that bombs are passive, in the sense that no one is killed unless he stands underneath one.

There are even enthusiasts for Norman Podhoretz, living illustration of the fact that structural paranoia is no impediment to success in public life.

But these pleasures should be dis­missed as nostalgia for a way of life that has gone, when Podhoretz was merely Making It, and Safire the distraught apologist for Nixon in his early pundit days. They are now both swimming securely in the mainstream, one giving ideas to Reagan, the other getting them from Nixon, both secure in public esteem. From Podhoretz to Moynihan to Kirkpatrick to Peretz to Jackson to Safire … Bipartisan consensus, ready to march to the ports of Cuba, the harbors of Iran, the domino of EI Salvador. Throw in a brisk bout of witch-hunting, as in the treatment of the Institute for Policy Studies, and you will see how far the clock has moved on — and back — from the high days of Watergate. The mainline press is, more firmly than ever, under the thumb and padlock of the powers that be.

It hasn’t taken long to get the political culture under control again after Vietnam and Watergate: the academics are quiet, the public-interest movement reeling, the poor subdued, and the broad acres of newsprint relatively undisturbed by dis­commoding ideas with only the occasional white tail of a liberal rabbit scuttling across the pastures. So far as ideological consensus is concerned, amid the hosan­nas and homilies of the cantspeople, the stage is set. ❖

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BOOKS ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing, Pt. 1

The Unbearable Whiteness of Journalism

Ever been to a fire in New York City? Or walked by a firefighters’ demonstration. Anybody who’s ever seen a mass of New York’s bravest can’t help but be struck by a blazing demo­graphic trait shared by the hook-and-ladder crowd: they are overwhelmingly white. How white? According to Charles Mann Associates, a research firm that analyzed 1990 census data, more than 88 per cent of New York 7930 uniformed firefighters are white. Since — as everyone knows — only a minority of the city’s adult population is white, such an unusually high concentration of whites makes “Firefighter” New York’s fourth whitest job occupation. That little fact is one of the city’s startling racial injustices, made more shameful by the fact that firefighters are paid with taxpayers’ money.

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There are, however, a few places in New York be­sides a firehouse where you’re even more likely to encounter nothing but white faces. Your best bet would he a publishing party. According to the same statistics, the whitest occupation in New York (of those jobs with more than 500 workers) is “author.” Almost 93 per cent of New Yorkers who call them­selves authors are white. The fifth whitest occupa­tion — 84.73 per cent, just a shade darker than firefighter — is “reporter/editor.”

Perhaps this comes as a surprise. After all, one of the most enduring American legends of the last decade or so is that the media is left-wing. (It used to be amusingly surreal to hear the media denounced as left-wing by the right-wing commentators who run most of the shows on the electronic media; by now it’s routine.) And since, the conventional logic continues, the media is the enforcer of the left-wings political correctness, it is probably overflowing with blacks, Latinos, Asians, and the white leftists who do their bidding. What else would you expect since the media and publishing worlds are headquartered in New York City, the Minority Mecca?

It ain’t necessarily so. In fact, it ain’t even remotely close. The existence of the words “New York” in a magazine’s title is no guarantee that the staff there looks at all like the city’s broader population. New York is approximately 25 per cent black and ap­proximately 30 per cent Latino; New York is ap­proximately zero per cent black and zero per cent Latino. And its chief competitor? “For the first five years that I was writing for The New Yorker,” says a longtime contributor, “the closest I ever got to a per­son of color was a young white fact-checker with dreads.”

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While journalism and book publishing are sepa­rate businesses with distinct cultures, New York’s print media industries have at last one significant trait in common; like firefighting, they’ve been shielded from the demographic shifts in New York over the last several decades. But while black of mi­nority representation in firefighting probably has lit­tle effect on how fires are put out, the workers who populate the publishing industry exercise tremen­dous control over a range of social and policy de­bates — not the least of which, these days, is about the presence of minorities in the workplace, some­times called (in shorthand) affirmative action. And while affirmative action might get a friendlier hear­ing among people in publishing than among peo­ple who put out fires, the fact remains that the pub­lishing industry resists affirmative action more than most.

Even the friendly hearing is somewhat in doubt. The issue of race in publishing is often met with si­lence. The silence has official faces. The Magazine Publishers of America, for example does not keep any statistics about the racial makeup of its con­stituent members. The silence can also take on a more subtle form: Most of the white editors interviewed for this article were either defensive on the topic or asked to rcmain anonymous or both.

This is not to say that publishing as an industry has failed to recognize that it has a color problem. On the contrary, a dramatic racial news event will often cause the industry to look at its white make­up and issue calls to do better. “After the King riots,” noted an August 1993 article in the media trade magazine Folio:, “the executive committee of the American Society of Magazine Editors called on the Magazine Publishers of America to work with its members and appropriate minority groups to recruit as many people as possiblc for hiring by magazines in all departments.’ ”

The industry might argue that there hasn’t been enough time since the 1992 Rodney King riots for marked improvement in minority hiring. But the article was referring to an ASME proposal from 1968, after riots that erupted from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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It is the best estimate of more than a dozen magazine staffers I have interviewed that minority representation in the magazine in­dustry in New York — including such black­-targeted titles as Essence — hovers around 8 per cent. That figure includes administrative and financial staff; the editorial makeup is es­timated at 5 per cent.

If the numbers of people of color in the magazine industry as a whole seem sad, the numbers at individual titles are pathetic. In a Nation column in March, Katha Pollitt noted that left-of-center publications are among the worst offenders. She said the Nation has employed one nonwhite editorial staffer in 13 years (she missed one; there have actually been two). The New York Review of Books employs none out of nine. Harper’s Magazine current­ly employs none out of 14. The Utne Reader, zero out of 12. The Progressive, one out of six. Mother Jones, one out of seven. In These Times, one out of nine. The New Republic, two out of 22. Ms. magazine employs four out of 11 ed­itorial staffers, including the editor-in-chief.

The majority of these magazines also publish few to no columnists or regular writers who are not white.

On this score, the Voice comes out better than most. Depending on the definition of “editorial” ( versus “administrative), there are 18 nonwhite staff members out of ap­proximately 80 paid Voice editorial staffers, a considerably higher percentage than most publications in the Voice‘s category. That includes one black woman as features edi­tor and another as chief of research, about as high as people of color ever get in the industry.

In the middle ranks, however, the numbers are less impressive: as of last week, two out of 18 senior editors, two out of 17 staff writers. (Breaking those num­bers down a bit more, one senior editor is Asian, one black; while the literary editor is Latino, there are no Latino senior editors or staff writers, and haven’t been for several years.) The Voice currently has no front-of-the-book columnists who are not white, actually a step backward compared to years past.

All the ostensibly liberal publications make a fat target for reasons of hypocrisy. Some are even hypocritical about their hypocrisy. The Harvard-dominated New Republic is an important national magazine that has made sev­eral high-level hires in the last few years, all white people; TNR’s idea of affirmative action is accepting some of its interns from Yale. In an April Washington Post story on the whiteness of liberal mags, New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan begged off the hypocrisy charge, pointing out that TNR had “taken an editorial position against affirmative action.” They have not, however, taken an editorial po­sition against hiring people of color; they sim­ply don’t do it. Note the logic here: the only way a person of color is going to be hired at New Republic is via affirmative action, they don’t believe in affirmative action, ergo, they won’t hire people of color.

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It’s difficult to explain exactly why this col­or gap exists at publications that portray them­selves as progressive, and are the first to attack others for institutional discrimination. Jill Petty, a black former Nation staffer who wrote a letter to the editor following Pollitt’s column, describes “a real artificial climate” about race. “People didn’t want to talk about it … It’s like it was up to me to bring it up. There was no vocabulary, no manners.”

Part of the problem in addressing these is­sues at progressive publications is that many of us white lefties seem to act as if our commit­ment to liberal or radical politics is enough, that progressivism is like a really high SAT score that gets you out of a remedial class that for others is required. A protective feeling about our fragile institutions sets in; surely, we tell ourselves, there are bigger causes to take on than the fact that Harper’s could use a black editor.

But as burning as the hypocrisy issue is — readers have every reason to expect that the racial makeup of The Nation is more diverse than that of The National Review — the left-of­ center magazines are hardly the only white-dominated bastions of publishing. In some ways, they are an imprecise target. Liberal mags represent a tiny fraction of overall jobs and revenues in the industry, and their turnover is of­ten so infrequent that they amount to quasi-tenured systems. William Whitworth, editor of The Atlantic Monthly — okay, we’re stretching the definition of “liberal” here — says he has not hired an editor in a decade.

Moving up the economic ladder a bit, to magazines with circulations at or near seven figures, one finds some better integrated staffs. Time magazine says that its staff is approximately 15 per cent minority, including one Latino executive editor and one Asian senior writer. Newsweek‘s staff has roughly the same.

But most popular magazines are as bad or worse than the industry standard. “I was hired as senior associate edi­tor at Premiere years ago because Spike Lee insisted on having black journalists on his set,” says writer and ed­itor Veronica Cham­bers. “It was ridiculous, but I got a job. Before that, they didn’t even have black cleaning people or black secre­taries there.”

A trip through the Hearst building in Midtown will turn up entire titles — big, hefty, successful titles like Harper’s Bazaar and Es­quire, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping — where no people of color work in editorial.

Rolling Stone, despite a reputation for doc­umenting the hip, employs no writers or edi­tors of color; in the more than 700 issues Rolling Stone has published since 1967, it has published exactly one cover story by a black writer. Officewide, Wenner Media — which in­cludes Rolling Stone, Us, and Men’s Journal — ­claims a minority employment rate of 15 per cent, though the rate for editorial staff is cer­tainly lower. Condé Nast is scarcely better — ­try finding a black or Latino name on the ed­itorial masthead of Vanity Fair, Mademoiselle, or GQ. The company won’t stoop to defend its nearly all-white staff, cloaking itself in the ultimate denial; senior vice president Paul Wilmot says, “As a private company, we re­lease no statistical information of any kind.”

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Making the question of publishing’s glass ceiling more urgent is the fact that, of all marginalized groups, people of col­or are the last to pull a winning ticket in what Lani Guinier calls America’s “op­pression sweepstakes.” When Andrew Sulli­van was appointed editor of The New Repub­lic in 1991, it was a breakthrough: a gay white man could edit a national political magazine without — in the eyes of all but the most squea­mish observers — turning the magazine into a gay-specific sheet. With Tina Brown editing The New Yorker, white women, too, have “proven” that they can run a large-circulation general interest magazine. There have been no comparable publishing breakthroughs for blacks, Latinos, or Asians.

What’s more, other media industries have had moments of ceding control to people of color. The recent squawk over Connie Chung’s departure from CBS underscores that, however briefly, a Big Three network was willing to place an Asian woman in one of its most visible — and financially important — positions. And remember the black filmmaker vogue of the early ’90s?

Newspaper and magazine editors generally offer the same excuses for the persistent whiteness of their trade. They argue that the reason they don’t put people of color on the covers of “general interest” magazines is that such images don’t sell. Like Gorbachev adorning Vanity Fair — which cut newsstand sales in half — each magazine has its little horror story about the time there was a black person on the cover.

They have less persuasive answers when asked why they don’t put the work of black or Latino writers on their covers. “I haven’t seen anybody whose stuff really blows me away,” says a white editor at a monthly magazine. “I would be more than happy to use a black writer if I thought that he or she was the best person to write on a given subject. But that’s almost never the case.” A slight variation on this rationale is that the handful of minority writers who are known in the magazine editing world are overcommitted, and thus tough to rely on.

It’s hard to underscore how deeply offensive these explanations are. “That’s a load of crap,” says Utrice Leid, a WBAI radio host and former editor of the City Sun. “If I put a bullhorn out the window and shouted for quality black writers, there would be a stampede.”

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White editors usually deploy less inclusive recruiting methods. Mostly, they cull from other mainstream publications, which themselves aren’t printing many articles written by people of color. Those editors who regularly read the black press — I found no one who said they consulted any Spanish or Asian-language periodical — say it’s adequate. “Part of the problem is the lack of a farm system,” says one prominent New York editor, who asked to remain anonymous. “In any other area —environmental journalism, academia, politics — there’s one or several excellent magazines or newsletters that we can tap into. Compared to those, the black press is a joke.”

It’s pretty hard to defend the black press. New York’s two weeklies, the Amsterdam News and the City Sun, are erratic and often sloppy. There are talented people working and writing there, but the papers seem unable or unwilling to separate out their occasional scoops and original analysis from the steady flow of rubbish that fills out their pages.

Leid maintains that the mediocrity of the black media is partly due to the fact that they once were farm teams. During the civil rights era, she says, mainstream newspapers and magazines “were embarrassed by their lack of black faces, so they raided the black papers and usurped the talent.” For that and other reasons, she says that “black papers no longer are attractive as plausible careers for beginning writers. The publications are unstable and the reputations are shot .” Some staffers at black periodicals are offended at the suggestion that they should function as a recruitment squad for their white counterparts. “I work just as hard to find and nurture new writers as my white editor does” one female black editor told me, “and I am not about to start asking, ‘How will this person work in the white press?’ ”

She needn’t worry. Even if today’s James Baldwin were writing regularly in a niche publication, there’s reason to doubt that he would make the reading list of most white editors. Quasi-academic magazines, such Black Scholar and Reconstruction, often have good material. It’s true that they don’t make much of an impact on any readership, but certainly not on white magazine editors, most of whom shrug at the mention of these journals. Writing off the black press is just one more way of evading black writers.

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So if the above explanations are evasions, why don’t editors recruit more writers of color? One Latina woman put it succinctly: “You can’t get in unless you know somebody. And people know people like themselves.” In fleshing out the social element of both journalism and book publishing, almost every person of color I interviewed brought up the same ritual of insularity: the publishing party.

Book parties. Winter holiday parties. Anniversary parties. Pulitzer celebration parties. Your editor’s birthday parties. Democratic convention parties. Last Thursday of the month parties. Magazine-launch parties (that is, through the late ’80s; in the early ’90s they were effectively replaced by magazine-folding parties.

New York’s publishing world is juiced by a seemingly endless stream of booze, ladled — often for free — at bars and galleries and in-house office parties. Somewhere in the city, every night of the week, there’s a semibusiness, semisocial party at which, even if lacking an invitation, a person with some connection to publishing will not be considered wholly out-of-place. These parties are a staple of the industry, the way that casting calls are for actors: trade publications such as Advertising Age and Media Week usually carry a page of party pictures every issue.

More than in most industries, these parties play an essential networking role. Writers need work, editors need writers, everybody needs intelligence on what the ostensible competition is doing. It is a kind of community formation, raising the same problems faced by all community formations. “I think it’s a club,” says Faith Hampton Childs, a black literary agent. “And like most clubs or closed societies of elites it is hesitant to open up to others.”

I have attended, conservatively, 200 of these parties over the last six years. I can say with confidence that there have been fewer than 10 occasions on which there were more than five black people in the room. On many, many occasions, there were precisely two black people in the room — often the same two (you know who you are).

The tokenism of publishing parties is, of course, a reflection of the tokenism within the industry, but in some ways it’s worse. While your publisher may dictate who gets hired, he or she doesn’t dictate everyone who get invited to a “personal” party. “I went to any number of parties and gatherings, and there would be very few people of color,” says former Nation staffer Petty. “I got so tired of people coming up to me and saying, ‘You’re the only black person here.’ And I would say, ‘Don’t tell me, tell the person who put to­gether the invitation list.’ ”

The all-white New York publishing party becomes a deep symbol of how life and work blend together in an incestuous mix, and how segregated both can become, even in a theoretically diverse city. “You could think you were at the Chevy Chase Country Club in the twilight of 1947, instead of 1995,” says agent Childs. “I get so sick of being the only black person, or one of three in a crowd of 450 people, and having nobody think that there’s anything wrong.”

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This topic, of all topics, brings out a defensiveness among white people in the publishing business. To raise the point is automatically to be perceived as critical, and the people who give the parties do not want to be criticized; criticism appears to disrupt the the all-important sense of gentili­ty that the publishing party is designed to em­body. One editor, who agreed to talk off the record, says, “We have to justify the expense as a reward for our writers and our advertisers, and very few of those people are black or Hispanic. On another level, I think people feel threatened by the anger that black people­ — rightly or wrongly — represent and they’d just rather not deal with it.” It’s a social catch-22: you won’t get ahead if you don’t go to the par­ties, but for the most part you won’t get invited to the parties if you’re black or Latino.

The withdrawal of whites in publishing into all-white social enclaves doubtlessly warps their perceptions of the few writers of color whom they do use. That is, publishing’s so­cial apartheid conditions editors to think in race-specific terms. Jill Nelson, the author of Volunteer Slavery, a book about her experiences as one of the few black reporters at The Washington Post, complains, “As a freelancer, I find that the stories I’m asked to do are after­thoughts. I’m the one they call late. It’s almost as if I just began to exist when the white edi­tor called me [to say], ‘give us the Negro per­spective.’ ”

The workplace equivalent of not being in­vited to the party is not being listened to­ — even when asked for the “black per­spective.” A midlevel black female magazine editor says: “Whenever it’s a ‘touchy’ subject, like welfare or affirmative action, if you don’t like some­thing, you’re being overly sensitive. My opin­ions are always considered to be emotional whereas a white person making the same ar­gument is considered to have made an intel­lectual decision.”

Added to this dead end is the role of what Veronica Chambers, lately of The New York Times Magazine and about to begin a Freedom Forum fellowship, calls “being publicly black.” Whenever her magazine printed an article on a black subject, “My phone would ring off the hook on Monday morning.” Angered black readers would call her she says because “I am the one black face that they know.” Soothing tempers “was part of my job, but it wasn’t part of the job of the white person sitting next to me.”

Under these pincerlike pressures, she says, it’s little wonder that the few people of color who break into the magazine industry ever stay. “There’s never anybody senior, there’s never a black managing editor or executive ed­itor. People either hang with that stuff or don’t hang —  and most don’t hang.”

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By comparison to magazines, most of New York’s daily newspapers have done a decent job of increasing numbers of people of color in their workforces, even at high levels. Progress at The New York Times has been achingly slow, but the paper now boasts of a black op-ed columnist (Bob Herbert) and a black assistant managing edi­tor (Gerald Boyd). Although the Times‘s total minority representation is an iffy 13.7 per cent — compared, say, to a surprising 18 per cent at The Wall Street Journal — the paper of record has also shown itself willing to give prominent beats covering more than “minor­ity” issues to reporters of color, such as James Dao in the Albany bureau, or Mireya Navar­ro on AIDS.

The Daily News now has three regular black op-ed columnists (Stanley Crouch, Playthell Benjamin, and E. R. Shipp), a Latino news pages columnist (Juan Gonzalez), and an Asian news columnist (Berry Liu Ebron). Overall, the News has one of the highest mi­nority representations among the nation’s dai­ly papers, approximately 21 per cent of its staff. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that the News achieved those figures only un­der the supervision of the Justice Department, after a Manhattan jury in 1987 found that the paper’s promotion practices were discrimina­tory. What’s more, the News‘s high figure was achieved in part by mass layoffs.

When it folded this weekend, New York Newsday, probably the city’s most liberal-iden­tified paper, had, along with its Long Island parent, a workforce that was 16. 7 per cent mi­nority. Its pages featured Sheryl McCarthy, Les Payne (as columnist and assistant manag­ing editor, though he’s based in Long Island), and Merle English (in the Brooklyn editions). New York Newsday had a black editorial page editor, and listed in its staff directory both “Asian American Issues” and “Latino Issues,” followed by a handful of appropriately named reporters. Because of contract complexities, it is too early to know how the closing will af­fect the Long Island edition’s racial composi­tion. One Newsday columnist predicted that the paper would become “a little whiter and a little more male than we used to be.”

But even when numbers and visible mi­nority faces have seemed promising, these pa­pers are still far from paradise for people of col­or. The Times has a tendency to lose its black reporters (such as Michel Marriott to Newsweek, E. R. Shipp to the News, and Gwen Ifill to NBC News), in part, some reporters say, because the wait for meaningful promotion is too long. The News stands charged with disparate treatment of columnists; veteran black columnist Earl Caldwell had a column spiked and, he says, was fired because he hadn’t reported both sides of a racially charged story, while News management publicly sup­ported white columnist Mike McAlary for a similar omission. McAlary is currently the de­fendant in a libel case for his coverage of a black woman’s rape complaint last year in Prospect Park.

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At Long Island Newsday, racial friction re­cently arose from what is, in New York, a rar­ity: the hiring of John McGinn, a half Native American trainee assigned to the tabloid’s sports desk. The imminent hire prompted a conversation between Eric Compton and Norman Cohen, both sports copy desk edi­tors, about whether it would now be acceptable to wear a Chicago Blackhawks jersey in the office. While details of the conversation are disputed, in January, Compton, 44, was booted, and denied an estimated $27,000 in severance pay because Newsday management said he’d been fired “for cause,” meaning he’d violated workplace rules. According to Editor & Publisher, Compton had been suspended in December 1993, for showing fellow employees a mocked-up trading card, picturing a black pro wrestler and using as a caption the name of Les Payne, the paper’s highest ranking black editor. In April, a state unemployment appeal board ruled that the paper had insufficient reason to fire Compton.

Regardless of what happened, the incident underscored the raw racial tensions at News­day. Legendary tab editor John Cotter, who died in 1991, had been pushed to resign in 1987 for referring — he claimed in jest — to a black editor, Hap Hairston, as a “dumb nig­ger.” Over time these tales circulate and affect hiring; according to Newsday sources, there was an unofficial black writers’ boycott of the Newsday sports desk through the early ’90s. The demise of the New York edition will no doubt fuel conflict between whites and mi­norities, all struggling to take the remaining jobs.

None of this comes close to the sad record of the New York Post, which doesn’t bother even trying to pretend that it’s integrated. In 1993, when the New York Times finally put Bob Herbert on its op-ed page, the Post be­came New York’s only English language dai­ly that employs no black columnists. (They pick up Thomas Sowell and William Raspberry from syndication services.) In fact, The New York Post has barely any reporters of col­or. It does not give figures to the ASNE.

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Post management has offered the same ex­cuse for years: poverty, which is only a slightly less spurious rationale today than it was during the reign of Murdoch I. The Post man­aged to find the money in 1994 to pay right wing conspiracist Christopher Ruddy, who had to be dumped when his creatively sourced reporting on the death of Vince Fos­ter proved an embarrassment. In September 1994, the Post also managed to find the re­sources to steal William F. Buckley Jr. away from the News.

The situation has reached a point where it fuels itself. Over the last several years, boycotts of the Post have been launched in black and Latino communities, in part over the Post’s re­fusal to hire minorities even in token numbers. Potential black and Latino reporters are wary of going to work for a paper perceived, in Public Enemy’s lyric, as “The Oldest Contin­ually Published Piece of Shit in the Nation.” In response, Post managers complain that they have tried to recruit black reporters, but the potential hires won’t come.

Under the best of circumstances, the print media’s domination by whites would be a stain of dishonor. In today’s political climate, the persistence of whiteness leaves the press ill-equipped to raise persuasive challenges to the accelerating attack on civil rights. It also corrodes credibility: the arrogance and denial that accompany discussion of race in publish­ing shed light on why the public holds the me­dia in only slightly higher regard than it does used car salesmen. ♦

Research: Geronimo Madrid and Ed Frauenheim

This is the first of a two-part series. Next: apartheid in the world of books.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Rupert Murdoch Tells All

  • His Secret Plan to Change the “Post”
  • How He Wooed Dolly Schiff
  • Why U.S. Journalists Are Lazy
  • Why He Quit Britain
  • What Makes Him Run 

In an exclusive interview with me at the end of last week, Australian press baron Rupert Murdoch told all. Lounging in his plush Fifth Avenue apartment, sipping a Scotch and soda, the 45-year-old millionaire tycoon spilled the inside story of his daring gamble in buying the ailing “Post” from New York’s first lady of journalism, Dorothy Schiff. He lashed back at the critics who say he is nothing but a peddler of printed garbage. He confessed his secret plan to change the face of New York. He confided his dreams and his mistakes, his life as an outsider in Britain, his love of the United States. Here is the real Rupert Murdoch. 

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Who made the first approach on the Post sale?

I did. I’ve seen Dolly on and off and got to know her over the last three years. She’s been very friendly, but we’d never dis­cussed buying or selling the paper. Then, last September, I went down and had a bite of lunch with her, and we got talking about business and politics, and I sensed she was very tired. She said she was very tired. She knew what was necessary to turn the paper around and get it done right, but she felt she just didn’t have the energy left. She really made the opening, though she didn’t really mean to, I think.

I said, if you want to get rid of it, let me know. I’m here. She said, ‘Oh, you’d be interested, would you? Everyone tells me you were, but you’ve never said it. Now you’ve said it.’ I didn’t push. I deliberately took the risk that someone might come in under me. I thought that while it was making money she obviously wasn’t going to go. That’s what it boiled down to.

So she said, ‘Where do we go from here?’ I asked her what she really wanted to do. Did she want to get out? Did she want a partner? She said if she got out she’d get out totally. She said she’d like to write a column. I’m delighted to have her write a column. It gets her to keep an identity of her own.

It was very difficult indeed to arrive at a figure. I promised… I can’t say, but the guessing is around $30 million, and that’s right, 10 per cent either way. If you buy the Kansas City Star, you pay three times the revenue, because it’s a monopoly and a license to steal money forever. Or you pay 50 times earnings, or 40 times earnings. Then you get to a paper which is not making money, so you can’t take a p/e.… In the end, you say, if we’re very success­ful, how much can we make. Then you make allowances that it’s in New York and allowances for the fact that you’re bloody keen to get it and a certain amount of sense goes out the window, and you do the deal. You’ve got a gut feeling about it.

What does final ratification of the agree­ment depend on?

Our auditors have got to be satisfied that the figures they have given us are true. That’s all. I have to get permission of the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of Australia, which is simple. We’ve got the wink. It’s a back-to-back loan. Perfectly normal. We still take the exchange risk as far as England goes. We deposit 10 million pounds, on which we earn from the Bank of England the local rate of interest, 16 or 17 per cent or whatever, and another bank here lends us $10 million, not $15 million. We bring the money directly from Aus­tralia and borrow the rest locally.

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So what do you think should be done with the Post?

I’ve got to study what’s there. I don’t want to give the impression that there’s no one any good there. We’ve got to improve the authority and the quality of its writing in the arts, the women’s section, and finance. You’ve already got it in sports. But one must never take one’s eye off sports. Make it better still if one can. There has to be better television coverage. These are the ribs of the paper that need to be fixed first and made a lot better. You can give authority through the arts and through finance.

In features, we should thin out the columns a bit and have two or three pages of varying features all the time about New York… service material. Take what New York magazine has done. It walked into a void there, looking after middle-class New Yorkers, telling them how to live here.

We should not be frightened to react to the news quickly, with a three-parter or five-parter on what happens to be interesting and appropriate at the time. But there really are too many columns in the bloody paper. Eight columns a day. They seem to be there because they’re available, rather than for any quality. It’s a cheap way of filling the paper.

Which columns do you like? 

I’m growing irritated by Evans and Novak. It doesn’t represent my political point of view, but I like Buckley. I tend to read him. I get cross about it, but the column is articulate. Evans and Novak tend to be sucking up to the political establishment in Washington, because  Kissinger is leaking to them, or someone else. But I shouldn’t knock them too much. They often break a story. Carl Rowan I can read. Sylvia Porter — everyone tells me she’s wonderful, but I’d put her back in finance or the women’s pages or a service area. You should have a page or two of first-class political columns leading articles and cartoons. I read Wechsler’s column.… There’s something gray, something dull about paper. Dolly insists the best piece in there is one she put in instead of Anderson, where she rips them all off.

How do you see the front page?

A harder headline. A couple of stories on the front page. Certainly get all those pointers off the top and have a clean, decent masthead. I don’t know — they never do it in America, but I’d like a seal, just the edition name put there in red. A bit of red gives you better black and white contrast, somehow.

But it’s the words, picking the right story to lead with, having the right story to lead with. Take the story about Patty Hearst being released: we had that story in our bureau here at the National Star about 10 hours before the Post broke it in their last edition. There’s something wrong with the newsgathering. The reporters are too busy writing essays about city government or about their favorite hobby horses and not getting the hard stuff — courts, politics. There’s room for features, plenty of room for serious features. Don’t get me wrong.

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How do you see the Post in relation to the News?

I can’t make up my mind about the News. Sometimes I think all it’s done is just get boring, and that the editors and people there are just too worried about what their neighbors in Westchester County think about it. The News should be violent and blood and guts. Sure, it can have some great writing in it, too. But it chickens out of too many stories. Other times, you have to say to yourself, it’s great. I don’t like its new layout. These wide columns and big type are just slowing it up. I know it’s the rage in America to have wider and wider columns. I think they’re harder to read, slower to read.

How about areas of readership?

It is obviously a Jewish middle-class paper. There’s probably one and a half million, two million people who read it every night. You’ve got to do a better job for them, stop them grumbling about 25 cents, and make them feel they’re getting their money’s worth.

What cut the readership down was the price rise. Dolly kept raising the price without putting anything extra in the paper. We certainly can’t raise the price again in the foreseeable future. It’s a worry, the newsstands closing. Maybe we’ll have to give them a better margin, so they can stay open longer.

Make them feel they’re getting their money’s worth. The next thing, you’ve got to broaden the appeal, get the Irish and the Italians and whoever else. I think the sport is a problem there. The sport is very good, but it’s rather up market in the way it’s written. It’s a bit above the head of the average… I don’t want to sound… the colored population, well, the blacks here. If they read anything, they tend to read the Daily News and they do it for the sport. Basically, they are not buying newspapers. You know, we will try and get into that area. The News is right, you’ve got to do it via sports. You’re not going to do it with a pretty essay. You’ve got to be able to quicken the pace.

What about your views of American journalism as a whole?

Worthy and lazy. Often bloody lazy. I don’t want to come in knocking American journalism, but I really think the British subeditors are still the best in the world, and I think on the whole that Australian reporters are the best in the world: it’s energy, aggressiveness, and so on.

Do you think American journalists have lost the techniques of being popular?

Right. They can’t even bloody write… on and on and on and on. Importing English subeditors is dangerous, but I wish to God the Americans would learn the techniques of English subbing. The stories in the Post are not very well written, and they go on too long. There’s no subbing. There’s no one writing good headlines down there. I don’t know who the news editor is, and who are organizing the stories. It seems to me they’re not covering the basics of New York. I don’t know what reporting is going on through the night. There must be tre­mendous… well, there are crime stories after the last edition of the News has gone to bed, waiting for the first edition of the Post. You never see one.

Gossip? Look at the gossip writer she hires. He may be a great guy, but the first piece he writes is 600 words apologizing for being a gossip writer. I never would have published it. Never. You’ve got great stories. Carey carrying on in “21” last night or wherever. Just doorstep Carey every night.

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What are your feelings about your politi­cal role as a newspaper proprietor here?

In the big political primaries, we were the only major paper in Texas to support Carter.… I’m a bit of a political buff. I love politics. I would have known enough to predict the results of all recent elections, though I was surprised how well Bella Abzug did. Beyond that, what right have I got to have political influence? I pay my taxes here. I’ve got my green card. Of course, I’m interested, fascinated by it. I’m not the Roy Thomson type of newspaper proprietor, just making money out of newspapers. I get a lot of kicks out of the political side of it.

Who would you support if there was an election in Britain tomorrow?

Put the government out, put the Conser­vatives in. I made the News of the World come out for Labor in 1970. The editors who prided themselves on being more left than me wanted to come out for Edward Heath in ’74. I stopped that. I didn’t come out for Labor. I said all right, we’ll agree to disagree and sit it out.

In 1972, I ran all the election policies of my papers in Australia and got deeply, far too deeply, involved. Looking back, we did some dreadful things to the other side. We lost a lot of advertising revenue, too. But in 1972 all the journalists felt the same way. In 1975, I changed my mind. It wasn’t out of any deep disillusion with the principles of the Labor Party. I was deeply sad. I thought it was a dreadful thing to be going back to the Conservatives so soon. Labor had been out for 23 years. It was the last chance of having a sane Labor govern­ment. I don’t mean a right-wing Labor government. I mean one that would have made a lot of changes and which, I hoped, would even go so far as to take us into a republic at one stage. They chickened on that. They were just bloody weak. Whitlam was a disaster.… It’s true, I did come in and turn our papers around. I think half our staff was with us. On The Australian, there were still people committed to the changes Whitlam had tried. They tried to overlook the failures, and there was a clash. I deny completely that we twisted the news. But we can argue that forever. Nineteen-seventy-five rather got me the reputation of being a reactionary, very conveniently overlooking what we’d done in 1972. In 1972, I wrote the leaders [editorials] every day in the [Sydney] Daily Mirror.

Would you be that involved here?

No. I hope I can control myself.

Well, what with The Sun and the San Antonio paper, the image is of you as a monstrous journalistic villain, keen on ambulance chasing and sticking tarts on the cover. How relevant is all that, so far as the Post is concerned? How do you react to that kind of image of you?

I think people misread it, of course. It suits our critics to say that we publish terrible papers. The Sun in London isn’t bad at all. The people who say it’s a terrible paper — it’s quite clear they only look at the girl on page three. It’s quite clear they don’t read it. Or get its political message, or read its features, or see what it’s about. The Sun is striking a chord. It’s being read by everyone under 40. The Mirror must be cooking their books somewhere when they say they are 50,000 in front of us. I think The Sun is an honest and very professional exercise in popular journalism in England. In England, you’ve got 50 million people you can reach at the end of a train every morning. My logic was that there just had to be room for more than one tabloid. The rest is history. You only had to get 20 per cent of the market. Here it’s quite dif­ferent.

Well, somewhere in between. In Aus­tralia, or America, some average city here, you have to sell to everybody. There’s not room for two of you. You tend to have a bland approach. You can’t really define a section of the market, a section of the public where you are just going to give them the paper they want. You go for the under-45s, and the over-65s will be offended. There are different sexual mores. It’s amazing. You put a pretty girl on the paper. A pretty girl, I don’t mean nude. You do that in the Star and they pull the place down. It’s dreadful… the store owners, it’s terrible. But you can publish an article of the most specific sexuality and not a murmur. It’s the reverse in England. More open and honest about it. Of course, there’s a great art to it. Those girls in The Sun are glamorous birds. They’re not tarts, they are not dirty, suggestive pictures. But here, for instance, Cosmopolitan the other day had a cover with a girl where there was a suggestion of a nipple. They got in a lot of trouble from their advertisers. The adver­tising department was terrified. The free copies went out with stickers planted right on the nipple.

The San Antonio paper? Well, they ignore what we’ve done with the Express down there, which is not as good as we’d like it to be, but is full of New York Times and Washington Post stuff, and some very good investigative stuff. It’s a bit conservative, and the circulation hasn’t gone up at all. So far as the News is concerned, we wondered about it and wondered about it and thought, what are people doing for news, where were they getting it — certainly not from the Hearst papers. We studied the TV pro­grams. The leading channel by a mile was a station that put on two hours of local news every afternoon and was just following the cops around with mobile cameras… blood and guts. And we turned the News pretty sharply, with lots of crime reporting and the courts. It’s a pretty violent city, San Antonio. The funny thing is that a generation ago some previous owner of the paper had been very anti-Mexican, and we had to live this down, and we said the Mexicans will love this and they’ll buy it. We didn’t put more than a few hundred on the West side. It was the gringos, deeply shocked by this, who turned out to buy it. All the increase went on on the affluent North side. So there you are.

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Why did you come here? 

Three things worried me about Fleet Street, why we had a go here. The first thing was the frustration, the daily bloody arguments with chapels, broken agree­ments, endless fights. I remember seeing Roy Thomson and he said, ‘Why aren’t you in Australia?’ I said, why aren’t you in Canada, and he said, ‘I won’t let the bastards beat me.’ I said to myself, I don’t want to be a bitter old man of 80, saying I don’t want the bastards to beat me, when they would have beaten me 40 years before. There was something awfully tragic about his attitude to it.

And the other thing was, I just wasn’t prepared to join the system. You know, if I’d stayed in England much longer… maybe I just have an inferiority complex about being an Australian. My wife accuses me of this sometimes. But you’ve got some money, and you tend to send your kids to the school you can most afford; you join the old-school-tie system and you’re going to be dragged into the so-called social establish­ment somehow. I never was. Just as we were being invited round to places, we’d catch Lord Lambton in bed or something, and then we’d be barred from everything. In England, you’re a big fish; people are always looking at you because the press loves to make a lot of you, to attack you. It’s very difficult not at some point to be sucked into the establishment. The last thing I wanted was to be a bloody press lord. I think, when people start taking knighthoods and peerages, it really is telling the world you’ve sold out. I’ve never been offered one; well, I’ve been offered a knighthood a few times, but no, I wouldn’t take one.

America is a much freer society, but the business framework of the American press is such that it’s very hard. There must be a way through it. I haven’t found it yet, but the New York Post is a great start. We’ll try. The Star turned out to be an impossible dream. We had to let it devolve into a women’s weekly newspaper, because you can only get to the public in a supermarket, and 90 per cent of the buyers there are women. It was an impossible dream as a weekly popular newspaper. I would say it’s over 1.5 million. It’s good. It makes about $20,000 a week. I thought, flushed with success in England, I suppose, that we could rush in here and we would have something making a lot of money, which would be nice and impressive to the bankers when we borrowed the money to buy a big paper. But it’s taken a lot of money and a lot of effort, though we learned a lot about the way the system works and the barriers to starting on the national level.

Still, the charge against you is that you go for the gut readership, the down-market readership, and then you sock it very hard. And there’s little evidence — apart from The Australian — that you’re interested in much else. Why, ultimately, are you in newspapers at all? 

There’s two answers — two explanations. One is that we started with a very small paper — 20 years ago in Adelaide — and we’ve never had much money. We’ve al­ways had to borrow and expand and we’ve always had to buy what’s available. So we always got the sick papers and had to turn them around. And so with our biggest papers it was always a battle for survival. So we had to go for circulation — not neces­sarily a bad thing.

The second explanation is that I am — if you can psychoanalyze yourself — a very competitive fellow, and I like selling more papers than the next guy. Have I cut corners, against my own principles? I would argue not. Not that I think every single story we have ever run is perfect. I don’t think there is anything to be ashamed of in selling as many papers as you can. Sometimes, in The Sun, the packaging has been blatantly entertaining. No harm in that. I don’t think we’ve corrupted the morals of the British people. Why am I in papers? I just love it. The only other thing I like is politics, and I’ve never let myself get into that. I think you prostitute your news­papers once you start joining political parties. People have done the two. But, to me, that would be really terrible.

Who Is Rupert Murdoch, Anyway? 

The new game in town is guessing what Rupert Murdoch will do with the Post. The jokes abound. “Smut and Socialism” was one hopelessly optimistic prediction. Wags scribbled headlines such as “Fiend Buys ‘Post’ (from Fiend).” “When did you know that Murdoch had bought the Post,” one denizen of South Street was asked. “At three o’clock on Friday, when I saw Wechsler and Sann in suits talking to each other,” came the reply. Post people groaned that Dolly had not even deigned to give the paper the scoop for its last edi­tion.

But what will a newspaper proprietor with powerful publications in Australia and in Britain do, now that he has bought into the action in New York? What does his career tell us?

***

Murdoch’s father, Keith, was a famous Australian newsman, particularly noted for breaking the story, through fierce military censorship, of the ghastly British reverses in Gallipoli in 1915. In his later career, Sir Keith, as he became, built up a commanding position in Australian news­papers, notably the Melbourne Herald. Young Rupert, born in 1931, drank in newspaper lore at his father’s knee, re­ceived a classy education at Geelong Grammar, and, indeed, worked on the Melbourne Herald in such areas as the police beat before going off to Oxford.

He returned to a situation slightly less full of promise than he had thought. Al­though Sir Keith was powerful at the Melbourne Herald, he lacked the shares for full control.

At all events, following the death of his father, Rupert was left with only a small province of what had been, prospectively, a large empire. His father had, along the way, acquired the Adelaide Daily News and it was in Adelaide, with this afternoon paper, that Murdoch really began his newspapering career.

Success in Adelaide brought him to Syd­ney and a serious engagement in the savage world of Australian journalism, in particular, Australian newspaper wars. A famous adornment of Australia’s press world had been the Norton family, father and son. Old John Norton was a crazed, villainous megalomaniac, given to such statements in his magazine Truth that Winston Churchill was “a witless wild ass, a bulgy-eyed, frothy mouthed, loose ton­gued, leather lunged, British Yankee half­-breed… a demented decadent, the bla­tant brain-mad bounder… this sibilating shyster.” The old boy was noted, among other antics, for urinating publicly in the chamber of the state legislature.

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His son Ezra later remembered his fa­ther calling him to observe the crowds strolling home from church beneath his balcony. “Look at them,” said old John as he studied his readers, “look at them in all their Sunday finery, the bloody hypocrites. Never forget this, my son. When you carry on my great work in Truth, keeping up its traditions, without fear or favor, you will be in the same position of trust as me, always able to pour a bucket of shit over the lot of them.”

The great newspaper battle in Sydney was between two afternoon papers, the Mirror, owned by Ezra Norton, and the Sun, owned by the Fairfax interests. On Ezra’s death, the Fairfax-cum-Melbourne Herald crowd briefly held the Sun before selling it to Murdoch, thinking that the would-be press tycoon would sink under its weight.

As other opponents later discovered, it is a mistake to underestimate Murdoch in a circulation war. The competition was ter­rific, and the recipe one of titillation (not­ably schoolgirls’ diaries) and muckraking. Murdoch, again in a pattern, got a good editor called Zell Rabin (who worked ceaselessly and died prematurely) and went to it. The war more or less continues to this day. One editor on the Sydney Morning Herald describes the Mirror and the Sun as “perhaps the two worst in the world.” Through four editions each day the two battle it out. The Sun is less raunchy, the Mirror’s girls bulge provocatively. The suggestion of a nipple in the first edition becomes an announcement by the second. In 1974, the rivalry reached an exquisite point when the two papers announced competing comic-strip versions of the Bible. After three days the Sun was well ahead, having reached Samson, whereas the Mirror was still in the Garden of Eden.

Gradually, Murdoch expanded his inter­ests, establishing his access to bank money and buying up profitable strings of subur­ban newspapers such as the Cumberland group. He acquired the Sidney Daily Tele­graph and in 1965 started up a national paper, The Australian in Canberra. Pre­sent claims that this is a jewel of serious­ness in a crown of tripe are a little overstated. The Australian has seriously declined in quality. But it was a creditable gamble by Murdoch.

***

In the mid-’60s, Murdoch met the would­-be press tycoon Robert Maxwell, over from Britain on a business spree. Murdoch formed a low estimate of this character and is quoted by one memorialist as saying at the time that he would travel halfway round the world to throw the fellow a concrete lifebelt. Then his chance came. Maxwell was trying to take over the News of the World, famed receptacle of British prurience. Murdoch immediately joined the other side, namely the defending team of Carr-Jackson interests, who were para­lyzed as rabbits in the face of Maxwell’s forceful overtures. Murdoch instantly per­ceived the correct ploy, which was to attack the share price of Pergamon, Max­well ‘s company, and the currency in which he was making his bid. Murdoch also turned his investigators loose on Maxwell’s Australian operations. By such techniques, Murdoch routed Maxwell, and, indeed, inflicted a permanent dent on that gentle­man’s career. Simultaneously, he turned on the News of the World owners who were hopefully waving him back off to Australia again and told them brusquely he was there to stay.

His second big newspapering chance came in the early 1970s in Britain. IPC — the London Daily Mirror’s company — was desperately trying to keep The Sun, a wobbling liberal daily descended from the old social­ist Daily Herald, afloat. Resigning themselves to permanent loss, they finally sold it to Murdoch. At that time the Mirror was the leading tabloid in England. Once again, as in Sidney, Murdoch fought a hard and no doubt formative circulation war. Connoisseurs well remember the loving care with which Sun subeditors would discuss the girl picture on page three, debating effects of chiaroscuro and light­ing, whereas the Mirror’s men would guilt­ily bung in their pinup with shameful laxity. Murdoch’s team, socking out the sex and tightly edited stories and stirring headlines, has now won the day.

***

Murdoch, with such successes and a handy slice of London Weekend Television stock under his belt, came to the United States in 1973. He launched The National Star with a disastrous $5 million ad campaign — disastrous since few copies were actually available for the eager readers. He bought the San Antonio Express and Evening News for $17 million, making the latter a byword with such great headlines as the one which pushed aside the national Democratic convention: “THUGS ROB EX-MAYOR, BEAT DOG.” Now, after trying to buy the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Washington Star, he has the Post. Simultaneously, he is on the verge of buying the Observer.

***

There are a number of things to get straight about Murdoch. He is not, as Time suggests this week, just interested in “making merry and making money.” He is extremely interested in politics, and his views, notably in Australia, have had enor­mous effect. In 1972, almost all Murdoch’s Australian newspapers keenly supported Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party, out of power for over 25 years. After Whitlam’s victory Murdoch’s general manager, John Menadue, went to work for Whitlam as his private secretary and is now Australian ambassador in Tokyo. Murdoch’s disillusion with Whitlam was fairly rapid. By 1974, his papers were warming up against Whitlam — a feud, say some, fueled by the fact that Whitlam blocked the transfer of funds out of Australia which Murdoch needed for newspaper and mining enterprises.

The campaign Murdoch ran in all his Australian newspapers against Whitlam was unbelievably ferocious. Journalists, particularly on The Australian, were ordered to turn out the assaults and were shouldered aside or ejected by Murdoch’s anti-Whitlam heavy cadres if they refused. Volley after volley of fierce editorials (sometimes such as the brief one in the Sydney Mirror, announcing “To hell with the MPs. All of them, no matter their party”) ranged out across the country. Finally, Whitlam was dismissed by the Governor-General, amid Murdochian applause. Labor unions boycotted The Australian. Crowds invaded the Sydney Mirror and burned copies of the paper in the streets. Even after Whitlam’s fall, Murdoch kept up the attack: personally sending dispatches about Whitlam to his Australian papers about the fallen premier’s bizarre dealings with the Iraqis. Murdoch’s English papers have been similarly pungent about left-wing Labor MPs. His early laborite views seem to be diminishing. He is, in short, far from being a Roy Thomson, merely tracking his papers for profit margins.

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It should also be remembered that Murdoch comes from an extremely rough school, probably the roughest journalistic school in the world. Australian journalists often fondly recall famed anecdotes of the press magnates’ fearsome behavior: Sir Frank Packer hiring a boxer to beat up one of his own columnists and so forth. Murdoch was formed in these genteel surroundings and has been fending for himself successfully ever since.

Employees across the world hold him in relatively good esteem. He makes a point of remembering all their names and is at home in his newsrooms. The business side of all his papers is tightly and effi­ciently run. He does not casually splurge money. He believes in “competitive ten­sion,” having executives vie with each other in a sort of Social-Darwinist free-fire zone of overlapping responsibilities until the fittest triumphs. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it does not: the Star has been through about six editors, including Murdoch himself. This can make his businesses uncomfortable places for senior personnel to work. One recurring pattern is that Murdoch will finally find the right editor for one of his papers, enjoy fine relations with him until some immense bust-up after about three years terminates the relationship. Ruthless purges are not unknown in his organization. He believes, as he says, in English subeditors and Australian journalists. In a crisis, he tends to fall back on the “Australian Mafia.”

***

How quickly will Murdoch move in on the Post? No doubt his financial aide George Viles will go down with him, as will James Brady — now in idle gear at the Star. An early entry may be Ray Kerrison, the Star’s racing man. He is not particularly afraid of a circulation war with the Daily News’s possible bulldog edition (carrying close-of-market results, put out at 4 p.m.). He reckons that with the McCormick trust going public next year and the unions demanding separate staffing for the bulldog edition, the News-Tribune group would not like to see its public offering damaged by any losses in New York. Otherwise, he is ready for war.

He’ll ask a lot of his writers, some of whom may be unused to the ministrations of English subeditors. An early onslaught of naked women in the Post is not expected, since — as one recent employee put it — “this is Rupert’s bid for respectability.” Besides which, this particular brew is not what he regards as being called for at the Post, at least not in present circumstances. Someone I spoke to compared him jovially with Jimmy Carter: high purposes, with no reluctance to descend into the mire when circumstances require it. Above all, as Murdoch said to me, he likes to sell more newspapers than the next fellow. Possibly spurred by some sense of competition with his famous father, he now is a major newspaper force in three separate areas of the English-speaking world. He’s a likable fellow, but no one could say that he has got to his present powerful position by consis­tently overestimating the intelligence of his readers. The final addendum to this thought is that many acquaintances and employees think that, in the right circumstances, he is not necessarily prone to underestimating it either.

Categories
NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Conservatives Can’t Identify Journalism, Confuse It With Doxxing

People usually frame Trump’s war on the press as if it’s just him making Soviet-style “enemy of the people” declarations against the media. But Trump gets plenty of help in belittling the mainstream press from conservative media — and not just by them parroting his punch lines, either.

One great example of this occurred last week when reporters asked for information about the jurors assigned to the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Conservatives accused the journalists of trying to sway the jurors into ruling for a conviction against Manafort, who is charged with eighteen counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts.

Jurors started deliberating Wednesday. Surprisingly, considering how mobbed up Manafort (and indeed the whole Trump apparatus) is, they have not been sequestered, meaning it’s probably likely that jurors have heard President Trump lobby on behalf of his old friend. (“It’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” Trump told the press, an endorsement that Manafort’s defense lawyer said he appreciated.)

We may never find out what jurors thought or heard during deliberations once the trial ends. Judge T.S. Ellis III has blocked the release of any information that might get them identified by the press. Requesting access to juror info is a common reporter gambit — used, for example, after the Bill Cosby trial — to get the sort of juror quotes you read in high-level, post-trial reports. The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Politico, and BuzzFeed all petitioned the court together to obtain the jurors’ names and addresses and other currently unavailable Manafort trial information, citing precedent that jury information should be revealed “absent extraordinary circumstances such as ‘realistic threats of violence or jury corruption.’ ”

But, Judge Ellis said there had been threats — to him. Ellis revealed he was under the protection of U.S. marshals, and said he feared for the jurors’ “peace and safety,” which led him to refuse the request.

Seems pretty straightforward. But conservatives — who did not know, or did not care to know — that this was standard journalistic practice told readers that reporters wanted to know the jurors’ names, not to write stories, but so they could “dox” them to coerce a conviction of Manafort on behalf of the Democrats.

At the Federalist, Bre Payton attacked what she described as CNN’s “long history of doxxing threats and harassment” and said “publicly outing the names and home addresses of jurors is considered ethically questionable” — as if it had been established that CNN, or anyone else, planned to do that to the Manafort jury.

Payton cited two pieces of evidence for her claim: CNN’s 2017 attempt to expose the person who posted a viral clip of Trump beating up a guy who had a CNN logo covering his head, and the network’s February 2018 contentious interview with Florine Gruen Goldfarb, a Florida Trump supporter whose Team Trump Broward Facebook page, according to CNN, listed events “promoted and encouraged by Russian trolls.” (Goldfarb’s responses in an interview with CNN regarding the possibility that Russians hacked into her group’s Facebook account were maladroit; she said accusations of Russian involvement were just a “cover-up” for “the shooting that was done at the high school.” At the time, conservative media portrayed her as an innocent victim of a “reporter ambush” who was “receiving threats on social media,” thus proving she had been “doxxed” rather than her merely having agreed to be interviewed.)

Payton’s accusations gave the brethren some talking points. “CNN Accused of Intimidating Paul Manafort Jury,” claimed John Nolte at Breitbart. Nolte called the request by CNN and the “six other far-left media outlets…disturbing and almost unprecedented.”

Nolte seemed to take Payton’s word that CNN planned to publish the jurors’ names and addresses without their consent. As evidence Nolte cited how CNN, during its 2013 coverage of the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin briefly showed a police document onscreen that showed Zimmerman’s Social Security number. Apparently this had been done in error, and yet Nolte nonetheless portrayed it as proof of CNN’s “desperation for a conviction in that case.” (He didn’t say how Zimmerman’s Social Security number would have helped the prosecution.)

Nolte suggested something similar was happening with Manafort: “What many see here, and not without precedent,” he wrote, “is yet another attempt by the media, most especially CNN, to bully and intimidate private, everyday citizens into convicting Manafort.… Jurors are almost certain to learn that these powerful anti-Trump outlets are hunting them down.”

“CNN and Other Leftist Outlets Accused of Planning to Smear Manafort Jury,” said Cillian Zeal at the Conservative Tribune. “CNN’s request to the court looks less like an act of journalists seeking information than it does the groundwork of a plan to attack the Manafort jury if it comes back with a verdict the media doesn’t like.… It’s doxxing, plain and simple.”

Perhaps aware that all but the most credulous wingnut readers would find this argument unconvincing, some conservative commentators clung to plausible, just-asking, others-accuse deniability, but some couldn’t restrain themselves.

“Was The Media Trying To Dox And Intimidate Jurors At Paul Manafort’s Trial?” riddle-me-this’d RedState. But after a few paragraphs it lost its cool: “This seems like a raw attempt at jury tampering. Like these news organizations were telling the jurors ‘we know where you live and if you f*** this up we’ve got you.’ ”

“Judge Ellis in Manafort Case Denies Dox-Factory CNN’s Demand for Juror Information,” brayed Ace of Spades, “Says He Himself Has Been Threatened, and The Jurors Would Be As Well.” Then Spades added, “Of course. That was the point. Also the point? Letting the jurors know that the media is very interested in digging up their identities, and will keep on trying.”

“Perhaps [the jurors] have seen the videos of Trump administration officials harassed in restaurants, businesses protested and boycotted for expressing pro-Trump sentiment, and street attacks by Antifa,” mused William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. “While a Not Guilty verdict for Manafort would not in fact be a ‘pro-Trump’ gesture, there is little doubt it would be perceived that way by the anti-Trump resistance.”

“Why do you suppose seven news organizations — all liberal, presumably — wanted to know who the jurors are and where they live?” asked John Hinderaker at Power Line. To contact them for interviews? Wrong! “They are worried that the jury, having heard the evidence, may not render the ‘right’ verdict, i.e., the one that helps the Democratic Party,” declared Hinderaker. “So they want to know who the jurors are so they can apply pressure on them through mob action, newspaper denunciations, online harassment and so on. This is how today’s Democratic Party operates.”

“Wow. So now they’ve gotten into the jury-tampering business,” marveled Monica Showalter at American Thinker. “They’re more interested in who the jury is than the trial itself.” Showalter compared the press to “Jean-Paul Marat, one of the French Revolution’s bloodthirstiest leftists (this is where we get the term ‘leftist’),” and added, “Oh, and note that this request takes place in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, home of shotgun political violence against Republican House leader Steve Scalise, who was nearly killed by aimed gunfire in a leftist assassination attempt while on a baseball field. You can bet the jury knows about that one.” It all adds up!

“Suing to doxx jurors was more threatening than simply doing it,” tweeted actor-turned-troll James Woods. “It’s like the mafia leaving a dead fish on your windshield.”

“And you can bet that the minute this information becomes publicly available, CNN will rush to broadcast it [sic] every single American — including the deranged ones — it can reach,” said Vivek Saxena at BizPac Review.

Yeah, that’s how journalists operate. They claim they’re “reporting news,” but they’re really passing on orders to kill. It’s easy to understand why conservatives think this way. They themselves admit that right-wing media outlets don’t do a lot of reporting, and most are simply content to chest-pound on behalf of Donald Trump. So would they even recognize what journalism is? Under such circumstances it would make sense if they came to consider journalism in the same way they consider creative endeavors: as vaguely disreputable dark arts practiced only by their enemies, to be beaten back with slander and propaganda.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES FILM ARCHIVES

“44 Pages” Answers Your Questions About the Magazine “Highlights for Children”

Most of 44 Pages, director Tony Shaff’s documentary about the family-owned magazine Highlights for Children, takes place in the magazine’s stately editorial offices in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The film surfaces all the magazine’s editorial challenges — Highlights is aimed at children aged six to twelve, which is to say, several completely different audiences. It publishes girls’ and boys’ letters and drawings in exactly equal numbers, which is hard — boys are likely to send depictions of fighter jets and guns, which the magazine doesn’t publish. Features never include cultural touchstones like Santa Claus or Halloween witches because they are exclusionary figures; the editors tell us that this isn’t about political correctness — it’s about making sure all kids feel represented.

Staff members answer every letter they receive — about 3,000 per year — flagging those from children in crisis for immediate response and contacting the authorities when needed. The privately held Highlights has never published advertising and relies entirely on subscriptions for revenue. Shaff relates the magazine’s history through interviews with founding family members and the quietly amazing editorial team as they prepare the publication’s seventieth-anniversary issue.

Anyone who’s worked in editorial or a similar environment will recognize the staff’s focus, creativity, and sharpness. There’s a warm strain of Fred Rogers genuineness here, too, along with only the gentlest of irony, found so uniformly throughout the office that it’s not much of a surprise to learn that the magazine’s leadership works up psychological profiles of all job candidates. Such is their sincerity and commitment that, while watching, it’s likely all the easy jokes that might occur to you about the magazine racks in the lobbies of dentists’ offices will evaporate and you’ll wonder if they might be hiring.

44 Pages
Directed by Tony Shaff
Opens April 18, IFC Center

 

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Media NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Why Local Reporting Really Is the First Draft of History

When Joe Ricketts shut down DNAinfo and Gothamist late Thursday after their staffs had voted to unionize, it did more than cost dozens of journalists their jobs. In a fit of anti-union pique, Ricketts initially forced all DNAinfo and Gothamist URLs to redirect to a letter announcing the websites’ closure. And though archived articles were restored the following day — after the sites’ blackouts had terrified hundreds of reporters that their work had been destroyed — the extensive political and neighborhood coverage provided by the sites, as well as sister outlets in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, and San Francisco, will not return.

While many of the sites’ readers were local residents and neighborhood activists, another key constituency was academics like me. I’m a geography Ph.D. candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, and I study the politics of urban planning and real estate in New York City. While major outlets like the New York Times and Daily News cover big developments and major rezonings, it would often fall on sites like Gothamist and DNAinfo to report on the political minutiae, which is often where the most telling details lie.

Right now, for example, I’m writing about the successful campaign to stop a Business Improvement District from expanding along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona, Queens. This was an issue I followed closely when I lived in Elmhurst and was a minor participant in the fight. There were a couple of stories in the Times and the Daily News, but the real trove of reporting was from Katie Honan at DNAinfo. She went to all the meetings — including many I couldn’t make — and reported on the tit for tat between the local politicians (who were often portrayed in major media accounts simply as “progressives,” without any exploration of their deeper contradictions), nonprofits (who were often treated simply as “do-gooders” elsewhere, with no exposure of their conflicts), and grassroots organizing projects (who were usually just ignored by the citywide papers). My co-author and I cite Honan three times in the article we’re working on, as well as DNAinfo reporter Paul DeBenedetto and former Gothamist reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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I didn’t always agree with what they wrote, and there was plenty wrong with Gothamist and DNAinfo. Just because they’re gone, there’s no need to glorify these outlets, which too often betrayed the same boosterism as other more obviously business-friendly publications. But they offered something that’s hard to come by: not only information, but verification for scholars like me who need evidence that what we write about actually happened. Several fellow researchers told me that if it weren’t for DNAinfo and Gothamist, a lot of the batshit things that go on in Community Board meetings would go totally unreported and uncited in academic studies.

Leigh Graham, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center, similarly relies on hyperlocal news to help guide her research. Graham, who studies the tensions between post-Sandy resiliency and growth in the Rockaways, tells me, “The granular reporting by DNAinfo, often by Katie Honan, a beat reporter who grew up in the Rockaways, has been indispensable for my research. I have more than sixty DNAinfo articles about the Rockaway peninsula saved as sources.” These stories, on issues that may have seemed trivial to others, provided Graham with insights into the micropolitics of global phenomena like climate change and real estate investment. “I’m devastated and angry to lose such an essential resource for research on New York City development politics,” she says.

It’s not just New York scholars who are missing this reporting. Steve Sherman, a Ph.D. candidate in regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says, “I’m working on a paper about urban renewal, planning, and policing in Hyde Park, Chicago. The most accurate and diligent reporting on Tax Increment Financing” — a public finance scheme premised on rising property values, much like the one Mayor Bill de Blasio intends to employ for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector waterfront streetcar — “within Chicago has come from the staff at DNAinfo and Chicagoist. However, since Ricketts closed those sites and their archives, researchers like me (and everyday Chicagoans) now don’t have access to crucial reporting on public finances. Thursday was a really good day for those avoiding government oversight and public accountability.”

Joe Ricketts’s monumental temper tantrum shows just how precarious journalism is — as an occupation, certainly, but also as a record of history. Web publishing may be ubiquitous, but it is also ephemeral. There are others doing this work to varying degrees, including of course the Village Voice, though many of these — such as the Indypendent, Voices of NY, City Limits, Gotham Gazette — rely on tenuous private foundation support.

Even when Gothamist and DNAinfo were going strong, a lot of important stories went unreported, and plenty of bullshit got published. We’ve lost two important resources, and must now support efforts to rebuild a better local media — which could mean developing a worker-owned or community-controlled model for this kind of reporting. The future of socially engaged and politically relevant academic study depends on deep and sustained neighborhood reporting. We need it — as neighbors, as activists, and as researchers too.

Categories
Media NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Gothamist and DNAinfo Are Gone

At 5 p.m. EST, DNAinfo/Gothamist owner Joe Ricketts announced that he was shutting down all of the company’s sites, effective immediately, because “businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”

Or, as former Village Voice news editor (and now-former Gothamist news editor) Chris Robbins put it:

https://twitter.com/ChristRobbins/status/926194421057703936?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet

Ricketts, the patriarch of a billionaire family that also owns TD Ameritrade and the Chicago Cubs, launched DNAinfo in 2009 to provide “hyperlocal” news coverage in Chicago and New York. In March of this year, the company bought Gothamist from its founders, Jake Dobkin and Jen Chung, keeping them on to help run the new, merged entity. Ricketts, a major Trump donor, is an outspoken opponent of unions, and in April, the Daily News reported that DNAinfo COO Dan Swartz indicated that if the staffs voted to unionize, the sites might be shut down. DNAinfo and Gothamist staffers voted to be represented by the Writers Guild of America East last week; today, Ricketts issued his shutdown letter, which every address at both sites now redirects to.

Whatever other fallout comes from this, and there is bound to be plenty, the loss of two major news sites is a devastating blow to journalism in New York — particularly since the New York Times scaled back its own local news coverage last year — as well as in Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, whose Gothamist-owned sites are now also shut down. As both fellow news reporters and readers of all these sites, we’re going to go sit some serious shiva now.

Categories
FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Michael Pollan Launches $10K Food Journalism Fellowships at UC Berkeley

Excellent news for food journalism: UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism is now offering five $10,000 fellowships a year, for early and mid-career journalists to travel and report longform stories on a range of food subjects, from nutritional policy and food science, to technology, culture, and urban farming.

]

The fellowships are part of a new program established by author and activist Michael Pollan and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (and are supported by a grant from The 11th Hour Project). Right now, print and radio journalists can apply; in upcoming years multimedia and video journalists will be welcome as well.

And now for the bad news: Online applications are due next week, on April 1, which means there isn’t much time to polish pitches and secure letters of recommendation.

Find more details about the 11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship here.

Categories
FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Nerds, Get Excited for New Food Science Journal

A new, open-access food science journal from Wiley titled Food Science & Nutrition will publish the latest peer-reviewed research related to food and nutrition including original research, reviews, and editorial.

The journal will be edited by Dr. Y. Martin Lo, Associate Professor of Food Bioprocess Engineering at the University of Maryland (Lo is also the editor in chief of the Journal of Food Processing and Preservation and previously served as president of the Chinese American Food Society ). The journal is already open for submissions and articles will be made available online under a Creative Commons license.

Categories
FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Winners of the James Beard Foundation’s Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards

The winners of the James Beard Foundation’s media awards were announced last night (the glitzy chef awards will be presented tonight, and you can follow along here if you like). Congratulations to all of the winners!

Cookbook of the Year
Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet
(The Cooking Lab)

Cookbook Hall of Fame
Laurie Colwin
Home Cooking and More Home Cooking

American Cooking
A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen
by Hugh Acheson
(Clarkson Potter)

Baking and Dessert
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
by Jeni Britton Bauer
(Artisan)

Beverage
Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, & Formulas
by Brad Thomas Parsons
(Ten Speed Press)

Cooking from a Professional Point of View

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold with Chris Young and Maxime Bilet
(The Cooking Lab)

General Cooking
Ruhlman’s Twenty
by Michael Ruhlman
(Chronicle Books)

Focus on Health
Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
by Heidi Swanson
(Ten Speed Press)

International
The Food of Morocco
by Paula Wolfert
(Ecco)

Photography
Notes from a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession
Artist/Photographer: Jeff Scott
(Tatroux)

Reference and Scholarship
Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880-1920
by Andrew P. Haley
(The University of North Carolina Press)

Single Subject
All About Roasting
by Molly Stevens
(W.W. Norton & Company)

Writing and Literature
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton
(Random House)

Publications of the Year
Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
Food52

Darra Goldstein
Gastronomica

Cooking, Recipes, or Instruction
Anna Thomas
EatingWell
“The Soup for Life”

Environment, Food Politics, and Policy
Ben Paynter
Fast Company
“The Sweet Science”

Food Coverage in a Food-Focused Publication
Saveur
James Oseland

Food Coverage in a General-Interest Publication
Lesley Bargar Suter
Los Angeles
“Chinese Food in L.A.,” “It’s Time for Breakfast in L.A,” “Food Lovers Guide”

Food Culture and Travel
Fuchsia Dunlop
The Financial Times
“Global Menu: Kicking Up a Stink”

Food-Related Columns
Lettie Teague
The Wall Street Journal
On Wine: Lettie Teague: “Drink, Memory: How to Remember that Wine;” “In Praise of the One-Cabernet Lunch;” “May I recommend: Lessons of Great Sommeliers”

Group Food Blog
The Salt: NPR‘s Food Blog
Maria Godoy
npr.org/blogs/thesalt

Health and Well-Being
Maureen O’Hagan
The Seattle Times
“Feeling the Weight: The Emotional Battle to Control Kids’ Diet”

Humor
Brett Martin
GQ
“The Hangover Part III”

Individual Food Blog
Poor Man’s Feast
Elissa Altman
Poormansfeast.com
“Craving the Food of Depravity”

Personal Essay
Cal Fussman
Esquire.com
“Drinking at 1,300 Ft: A 9/11 Story About Wine and Wisdom”

Profile
Susan Choi
Food & Wine
“The Spice Wizardry of Lior Lev Sercarz”

Visual Storytelling
Landon Nordeman
Saveur
“Soul of Sicily,” “BBQ Nation,” “Heart of the Valley”

Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages
Sarah Karnasiewicz
Imbibe
“Fizzy Business”

Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award
Alan Richman
GQ
“The Very Tasty Liberation of Paris,” “I Heart SF,” “Diner for Schmucks”

MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award
John T. Edge
Saveur
“BBQ Nation”

Radio Show/Audio Webcast
Fear of Frying: Culinary Nightmares
Host: Nina Barrett
Area: WBEZ
Producer: Jason Marck

Special/Documentary (Television or Video Webcast)
A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt
Network: HBO
Producers: Sally Rowe, Rachel Mills, and Alan Oxman

Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location
Chopped
Host: Ted Allen
Network: Food Network
Producers: Linda Lea, Dave Noll, and Vivian Sorenson

Television Program, On Location
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
Host: Andrew Zimmern
Network: Travel Channel
Producer: Andrew Zimmern

Television Segment
CBS News Sunday Morning
Host: Martha Teichner
Network: CBS
Producers: Lauren Barnello, Jon Carras, Edward Forgotson, Patrick Lee, and David Small

Video Webcast
eatTV with Jamie Tiampo
Eattv.com
Host: Jamie Tiampo
Producers: Suzanne Glickstein, Jimmy McCoy, and Jamie Tiampo

Media Personality/Host (Television or Video Webcast)
Host: Ted Allen
Show: Chopped
Network: Food Network

Via James Beard Foundation