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"Life Has Been Complete Madness"

April 6, 2005

African-Born Pulitzer Winner Catches His Breath

In the 24 hours after becoming apparently the first African-born journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize, Dele Olojede took calls from the Clinton administration's ambassador to Nigeria, found his e-mail in-box packed with congratulations, received messages from admirers in the U.S., China and South Africa, and became front-page news in his native Nigeria.

"Life has been complete madness," Olojede told Journal-isms. But, he said, "I hope many more of our people will get to feel this sense of accomplishment and joy, and the opportunities to exhibit" their talent.

As reported Monday, Olojede, 44, is a former Newsday foreign editor who was named co-winner of the Pulitzer prize for international reporting after he took a reporter's look at the effects of the Rwanda genocide 10 years later. He produced his series with the assistance of an African American photographer, J. Conrad Williams, while working under Lonnie Isabel, an African American who was then assistant managing editor for national and foreign coverage.

Twenty years ago, he was in Nigeria, a reporter for the independent national Concord newspaper, whose editor spent two weeks in detention without explanation from the government. He became one of the founding writers at Newswatch magazine, whose editor, Dele Giwa, was killed by a pipe bomb in 1986—"by military intelligence," Olojede said, though the perpetrators have never been arrested.

"I was forced to leave," he explained, and the Ford Foundation sponsored him at Columbia University Journalism School in 1987 and 1988.

After that, he went to Newsday, covering Long Island news, becoming bureau chief in both Africa and China and eventually foreign editor (all while keeping dual citizenship in Nigeria and the United States).

In 2003, newly promoted Newsday editor Howard Schneider decided to shift the editor chairs, and as Cynthia Cotts reported at the time in the Village Voice, "one employee refused to go along with the plan – foreign editor Dele Olojede. The job Schneider was offering Olojede was assistant managing editor for Long Island – a promotion that would have put him in line to take over the paper one day. But the decision seemed to already have been made without consulting Olojede, who felt utterly disrespected."

During the Rwanda genocide, Olojede was in South Africa covering the first all-race election in South Africa, whose government was to be headed by Nelson Mandela. "I made the decision to stay in South Africa. Even though I thought the decision was fundamentally sound, there was always this doubt: if somebody had been in there [Rwanda], and I was capable of getting in, and written stories of such power that people would have been forced to act, even if you took 60 days, there could have been thousands of people who could have been saved.

"I always thought one day I would go back there." In 2003, with the tension in the newsroom, "I wanted to get a chance to do something else. Getting out of the newsroom would give the editor a chance to take control of his newsroom."

Newsday, under orders from parent Tribune Co. to trim costs, offered buyouts last year, and Olojede took the offer, leaving Dec. 10. He now lives in Johannesburg, working on media ventures and preparing to write a book on Rwanda. "Thankfully, the value [of such a book] has gone up," he said.

Success comes with honing skills and seizing opportunities, he said by way of advice. "That doesn't mean that without opportunity you should do nothing, but with a little bit of luck, you will have the opportunity to make opportunities happen." Les Payne, the columnist and Newsday's New York editor, "has been a mentor and booster of mine. He said, even when you cover town hall, you still have to do the best you can, even while arguing for a better assignment."

Olojede regrets late report on Rwandan genocide (Guardian, Lagos, Nigeria)

Newsday Wins Pulitzer (Newsday)

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Albom Apologizes for Inaccurate NBA Column

"Detroit Free Press sports columnist Mitch Albom wrote an apology to his employer and the newspaper's readers after coming under scrutiny for a column that appeared Sunday in which he claimed NBA players Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson were at Michigan State's NCAA semifinal game against North Carolina at the Edward Jones Dome," Ron Harris wrote for Thursday's editions of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

"In his column, which appeared in the Sunday Detroit News [-Free Press], Albom wrote, 'In the audience Saturday at the Final Four, among the 46,000 hoop junkies, sales executives, movie producers, parents, contest winners, beer guzzlers, hip-hop stars and lucky locals who knew somebody who knew somebody, there were two former stars for Michigan State, Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson.'

". . . In his apology scheduled to run in today's edition, Albom said he wrote the article on Friday but should not have assumed the players were going to be there. A portion of the apology to readers: 'So I owe you and the Free Press an apology, and you have it right here. It wasn't thorough journalism.'

". . . The Free Press said in a correction that was to run in today's edition, 'Mitch Albom's column in the Sunday section said NBA players Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson attended Saturday's Michigan State-North Carolina NCAA tournament basketball game. They did not. Albom did interview the two players Friday. They described travel plans and the intention to sit together at the game. Their plans changed because of scheduling conflicts. The Free Press should not have reported the players were at the game. We do not present as fact events that have not occurred. Albom's column appeared in a section printed before the game. The Free Press apologizes for misleading readers.'"

In addition to being a star columnist, Albom is the author of the current best-seller "Five People You Meet in Heaven" and of 1997's "Tuesdays With Morrie," about his conversations with his dying college mentor. It has since been made into a stage play, and is still on the best-seller list in paperback.

When the Jayson Blair scandal broke at the New York Times in 2003, Albom let both Blair and the Times have it, saying of the Times, "no matter what anyone tells you, that was about race," and writing of Blair's saga:

"I know it's going to be a movie. I didn't know he was writing it.

"The sad lesson is that Blair, a kid addicted to the fast flash of attention, will likely get it and make big money for it. What he doesn't get is that journalism is not Hollywood. It's not about closing the deal. It's not about face time. It's about -- simply put -- telling the truth."

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Byron Allen Working to Buy Paxson TV Network

"Television celebrity and businessman Byron Allen on Tuesday said his Entertainment Studios Corp. may bid $2.2 billion in cash to acquire struggling Paxson TV network and remake it for black audiences," Bob Tourtellotte reported Tuesday for Reuters.

"Allen, widely remembered as the star of 1980s TV show 'Real People,' told Reuters he is working with investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston and several undisclosed private equity firms to establish financing, but no company had yet committed to backing his company in an offer.

"The network's parent, West Palm Beach, Florida's Paxson Communications Corp. . . . owns 60 local TV stations that reach nearly 90 percent of all U.S. households.

"'This is an asset (Paxson) that has a great deal of unleashed potential,' Allen said. 'The goal is to take one of the largest groups of television stations and turn it toward African Americans.'

". . . Allen is perhaps best known for his work on 'Real People' because it was so widely watched, but he has transformed his celebrity into success as a TV executive."

TV One: A New Choice for African-Americans (Mediaweek)

BET's Johnson Invests in IRA Rollover Company (Washington Post)

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Monroe, Smith, Woolfolk Seek NABJ Presidency

Three candidates have filed in the race for president of the National Association of Black Journalists: Bryan Monroe, assistant vice president-news at Knight Ridder in San Jose, Calif.; Cheryl Smith, talk show host/editor at KKDA-AM in Grand Prairie, Texas; and Mike Woolfolk, anchor/managing editor at WACH-TV in Columbia, S.C.

Monroe is the current vice president/print. Smith has been regional director for Texas and nearby states, and Woolfolk was vice president/broadcast. Smith and Woolfolk ran unsuccessfully for president in 2003.

Monroe and Smith have campaign Web sites, with Smith's saying, "launching April 10."

In the other races, only the student representative's seat is contested.

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Hunter-Gault Looking to Radio, TV and Print

Veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault showed up on National Public Radio last week reporting on the elections in Zimbabwe, as noted on Friday, but Hunter-Gault, who left CNN March 25, is putting much more on her plate.

"I am committing to doing 100 days (not consecutive) for NPR. Aside from the kind of breaking news story like the Zim[babwe] elections I will be concentrating on longer, interpretive pieces that may stand on their own or as part of a series," she told Journal-isms today.

"Moreover, I will be freelancing for a variety of US-based clients—TV and print. I have a piece coming out on April 15 in the May issue of O and am working on my book, to be published by Oxford Press: New News Out of Africa (or at least that's the working title)."

Hunter-Gault had been CNN's Johannesburg bureau chief since 1999.

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Lou Dobbs, NAHJ Rep Debate Dobbs' Fairness

CNN's Lou Dobbs went toe-to-toe on his show tonight with Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, with Dobbs defending his show's "reporting on the illegal alien crisis in this country" while Roman argued that "when you basically do stories that talk about only . . . illegal immigration and criminality. . . . people will lump us together."

In a March 30 commentary from the Hispanic Link News Service, distributed by Scripps-Howard, Paul Hortenstine and Charlie Ericksen wrote that statistics in a Pew Hispanic Center report on immigration "were too often transformed into an unwarranted dangerous invasion of this country by potentially sinister foreigners.

"Joseph Torres, deputy director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Hispanic Journalists, singled out CNN's Lou Dobbs for . . . inflammatory coverage of undocumented immigration and his 'daily drumbeat portraying Hispanics as criminals whose illegal presence threatens the security, livelihood and well being of this country,'" the article said.

On the show, Dobbs said a staff producer had found that, since September 2003, "We had 46 guests during that period of time who were pro open borders, pro illegal immigration. We had, at the same time, 45 who were anti-." Roman replied that, "it's the tone of the coverage. What's important is what is in those stories that you use to talk about it, to illustrate the issue."

When Dobbs said, "we don't get those complaints," Roman countered that "it could be that you don't get the complaints because people don't watch the show. You know, that's the—that's part of the problem. . . . We get some calls from people who say, I'm tired, I'm turned, I don't watch Lou Dobbs anymore, I'm just so turned off by the show because we don't get—our voice isn't heard there."

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Black Journalists Among Hordes at Vatican

Kareen Wynter, a national correspondent for CNN Newsource, and Darieth Chisolm and Harold Hayes, who report for competing television stations in Pittsburgh, are black journalists among the hordes of reporters at the Vatican covering the aftermath of the death of Pope John Paul II.

[New York-based producer Mark Griffith wrote to the National Association of Black Journalists e-mail list early Thursday that he was there for CBS News, along with Vic Carter of WJZ-TV in Baltimore, who was covering Marylanders. Later, he added Maurice DuBois of WCBS-TV in New York.]

CNN Newsource provides custom live reports for more than 700 affiliates. Chisolm, of WPXI, and Hayes, of KDKA, are covering Pittsburgh residents in Rome.

["'Yes, we had seen it on television, but this was different, we could feel something,' Maurice DuBois said on WCBS/Ch. 2 after he and Mary Calvi saw the Pope's body," Richard Huff wrote Friday in the New York Daily News. "I have to tell you it's unforgettable. I wish I could convey the actual sensation of being there in the moment," he quoted DuBois as saying.]

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that, "the evening of Pope John Paul's death, U.S. television viewers were more interested in watching basketball than special news programs about the leader of the Catholic Church."

And journalists followed the developments in commentary and news stories:

  • George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service: The Next Pope Could be Black or Hispanic

  • Sam Fulwood III, Cleveland Plain Dealer: For Shaker choir, a unique moment

  • Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: A pope of peace and Bush's war

  • Kevin J. Kelley, The Nation (Nairobi): The Next Pontiff is Not Likely to Come From Africa

  • Deborah Mathis, Black America Web: Let's Pray that John Paul II's Successor Walks the Line Between What Is and What Can Be

  • Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: A pontiff from another continent?

  • Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: In the Flow, but Against the Tide

  • Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Whence the Next Pope?

  • Adrienne Washington, Washington Times: John Paul leaves a truly catholic legacy of faith

  • Ed Wiley III, BET.com: Arinze, an African, Has What it Takes to be Next Pontiff, Some Say

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Columnists Want Some Ideas Buried With Cochran

"Johnnie Cochran Jr.'s most celebrated clients, O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, joined civil rights figures and Hollywood stars at the lawyer's funeral Wednesday, remembering Cochran's cunning legal skills and his commitment to the people he represented," the Associated Press reported.

But before the funeral for Cochran, 67, who died March 29 of an inoperable brain tumor at his home in Los Angeles, some journalists had a few more words to say:

  • George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service: Johnnie Cochran and the 'No-Js'

  • Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Cochran's stand / The flashy lawyer was about more than O.J.

  • Roland S. Martin, Black America Today: Johnnie Cochran was more than a 'Black' lawyer

  • DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Spare Cochran legacy of 'race card' label

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Bellow Became a Passion of Times' Brent Staples

"This man is the artist as a kind of cannibal," Brent Staples, New York Times editorial writer and columnist, wrote in Slate magazine in 2000.

He was writing of Nobel laureate Saul Bellow, who died Tuesday in Brookline, Mass., at age 89.

Staples devoted a chapter of his 1994 memoir, "Parallel Time," to Bellow. In Slate, after another book on Bellow was published, Staples explained his cannibal comparison.

"I learned all this by watching Bellow when I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago. I studied psychology. He taught at the vaunted Committee on Social Thought—which viewed itself as the center of comprehension in the Western world. I learned to write by comparing Bellow's novels to the people and circumstances he drew on when writing them. I watched from a distance, by the way, avoiding that ravenous gaze. I did not want to end up as others had. Nor was I pleased with the way he portrayed his black characters."

Gail Caldwell wrote in the Boston Globe today, citing Staples' comments, that Bellow "was forced to defend himself against charges of white-guy literary provincialism by Alfred Kazin in The New Yorker. Defend he did, writing an eloquent, if cranky, op-ed piece for The New York Times, urging above all 'the autonomy of the literary imagination.'"

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Suit Claims Billboard Racially Profiled Employees

"Billboard magazine, the so-called 'Bible of the Music Industry,' guilty of racially profiling its employees?" Lloyd Grove, New York Daily News gossip columnist, asked Monday.

"There's some eye-popping evidence in just-filed court papers from fired editors Keith Girard and Samantha Chang's $29 million lawsuit against the mag's upper management and Dutch-owned parent company, VNU Business Media Inc.

"In one instance, according to the filing in New York State Supreme Court, a Billboard official prepared a chart titled 'Editorial Staff Demographics' and listed each employee by name, title and race—'caucasian,' 'african-american' or 'asian or pacific islander.'

"Plaintiffs' attorney Kyle Bisceglie . . . told me: 'This evidence is part of our case that shows the degree of systemic racial discrimination that exists at VNU. How far it goes is what we're trying to find out.'"

New motion details racial profiling claims against Billboard magazine (Court TV)

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Columnist Says Red Lake Panel Warranted Apology

Minnesota's Duluth News Tribune won agreement from a Minnesota columnist that the paper was right to apologize for running a syndicated editorial cartoon by Signe Wilkinson on the Red Lake reservation shootings.

"The cartoon, drawn by a Philadelphia Daily News journalist, was disgusting," Bill Hanna, of the 10,447-circulation Mesabi Daily News, wrote Sunday.

"It showed a man with a headband and ponytail, obviously depicting a Native American, holding an 'Indian Tracking Guide' as he walked amid guns, bullets and Nazi symbols. In the background was the Red Lake Reservation School, symbolizing where a student two weeks ago this Monday went on a killing rampage that left a total of eight people dead, including himself. Earlier that day, the student had also killed his grandfather and that man's female friend.

"Native Americans at the demonstration and others speaking out on the cartoon said they were angry and hurt. The cartoon did nothing to help heal a grievous and wide open wound."

Hanna went on to criticize Robin Washington, editorial page editor of the Duluth paper, for including his paper in an apology for the "industry."

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X-Rated Snoop Dogg Song Made It on the Air

"Channel 9 is profusely apologizing for broadcasting an explicit lyric from a Snoop Dogg song during its Saturday morning newscast," "Reliable Source" columnist Richard Leiby wrote today in the Washington Post. "Anchor Lesli Foster, who had just previewed an upcoming 'Petline 9' segment about an orphaned rabbit looking for a home, gasped off-screen after the X-rated snippet aired at 7:50—just before an orange juice commercial.

"Several viewers complained to the station about the lyric, which instructs listeners to 'just throw your hands in the [bleeping] air.' It comes from the rapper's 1993 song, 'Who Am I (What's My Name)?'

WUSA anchor Derek McGinty apologized to viewers Monday night.

The Web site dcrtv.com said Tuesday, "we're told that a news producer lost his job over the incident," though Leiby said the producer was "in hot water."

Station president Darryll Green told the Post: "We really don't discuss personnel issues."

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Short Takes

  • "After a day of speculative stories, Telemundo made it official today by promoting Don Browne, the Hispanic network's COO since May 2003, to replace Jim McNamara as president," John Consoli reported today in Mediaweek. Last year, Browne won the Ida B. Wells Award, given by the National Association of Black Journalists and National Conference of Editorial Writers to media executives who effectively promote diversity.


  • Talks over renewing ousted anchor Emery King's contract with WDIV-TV in Detroit began last week and are continuing, Joe Berwanger, the station's vice president and general manager, told Journal-isms today. Berwanger said he had no further news to report.


  • Elizabeth Vargas of ABC-TV's "20/20" is among those to fill in for Peter Jennings "as needed" as the "World News Tonight" anchor begins chemotherapy for lung cancer, USA Today reported.

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites.

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