Gregory Favre

Started in daily newspaper business 57 years ago. Former editor and managing editor at a number of papers, former president of ASNE, retired VP/News for McClatchy.


John Seigenthaler

John Seigenthaler: You couldn’t choose a better journalism hero

“Mr. Seigenthaler is on the phone, “ I was told. It had to be important. Why else would John be calling me in the middle of the day?

After greetings the conversation went something like this:

“John, what can I do for you?”

“Well, Gregory, you know that cologne you wear? Dolores [his beautiful wife] loves it and she wants me to start using it. I was wondering if you could tell me how I can get some.”

Seigenthaler in 1994. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Seigenthaler in 1994. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

He got it, and every time we met afterward, we sniffed each other and laughed, leaving bystanders wondering if we had misplaced our marbles.

Now, John Seigenthaler is gone. And everyone he ever touched, up close or far away, deeply mourns his passing but will never forget what he did in a life that was truly well-lived.

“Choose your heroes and go and do likewise.”

That was the simple, but eloquent, advice given once to a group of journalists by a wise man, the late Gene Patterson, who like John was a powerful voice for the voiceless in the South.

None of us could have chosen a better hero than John to observe and study and attempt to follow his footsteps. The only problem, we knew none of us could come close to duplicating what John accomplished, as a reporter, editor, battler for civil rights, unrelenting protector of the First Amendment, inspiring leader and caring friend.

He was a man of courage and compassion, a man who fit in backstage at the Grand Ole Opry or up front at Carnegie Hall, a man who could captivate an audience with his lyrical prose and always left it with some gems of wisdom to take home, as well as some laughs to remember.

A man to mimic, if only we could be that good.

So long, old friend.

Related: Former Poynter President Karen Dunlap writes that Seigenthaler was “a man who stood for news media freedom, who worked on things that mattered and helped a community bridge its differences.” | The Tennessean’s Seigenthaler package Read more

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The short shelf life of today’s heroes, in sports and in journalism

Michael Wilbon was on ESPN radio discussing Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o when he posed this rhetorical question: “What is the shelf life of a hero today?”

An excellent question: What is the shelf life of heroes in a world overflowing with instant communications, the need for instant gratification, and instant (and too often bitter, obscene and mean-spirited) rebuttals?

The talk show conversation and Wilbon’s question registered a stronger reaction than it may have on other days; it came at a time when I was thinking about one of my personal heroes, Gene Patterson, at a time when the news of his death was still raw.

There was a time when the answer seemed so simple, in the long ago years when we cheered for Johnny Lujack, the All America quarterback and the Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon; when we listened on the radio to Joe Louis’ latest victory or President Roosevelt’s fireside chats, or in theaters watched Sugar Ray Robinson, who may have had some flaws outside the ring but was unflawed inside the ropes.

Or when we lived vicariously through Felix “Doc” Blanchard, Mr. Inside for Army, who graduated from high school with my oldest brother. Or certainly when we tuned into KMOX from St. Louis and visualized the quiet man Stan Musial crouched at the plate, a cobra in baseball knickers ready to strike. Or when we first saw a Brookhaven, Miss., high school kid named Lance Alworth and realized we had witnessed unmatched athletic talent of any generation, or a Louisiana youth named Billy Cannon.

And for someone who grew up working on my dad’s weekly newspaper, Hap Glaudi and Bill Keefe, New Orleans sports columnists, Turner Catledge, who also started his journey on a Mississippi weekly and rose to become executive editor of The New York Times, Hodding Carter, the courageous Mississippi Delta editor, and my dad provided enough day dreams about the future to keep me going.

But most of all, there were the heroes who went off to wars:

  • My Godmother, who served as a nurse in World War Two and came home an Army major.
  • Her brothers, one in the Navy and one in the Marines, who, one or the other, fought in and survived every Pacific battle, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day.
  • My cousin Donald, who was more of a brother and who is buried in Normandy.
  • Five brothers who wore various uniforms and served during various wars
  • And so many more from that small town we shared.

Then as we aged and became more selective of those we admired, mentors and colleagues filled a number of the slots. My thank-you card is jammed with the names of the men and women who served as teachers, who enriched my career with their contributions, who gave unselfishly of their wisdom — mentors such as Gene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize winner, an officer under General Patton, an editor of courage, whose moral compass always pointed in the right direction.

He is gone, but the lessons he left to so many of us who admired him will live on. He seemed to always know what to do and what to say when you needed a guardian angel. You never had to ask. And he was an editor to the end, even in his hospice bed, cutting a half-million words from the Old Testament and publishing it through Amazon. “I always wanted to read it completely, but I never could get through it, “ he told me. “Now I can.”

Hearing him speak on subject after subject was pure joy. Perhaps another friend put it best when he said that after listening to Gene one night talking about journalism, the Constitution, ethics, Broadway, the Bible, and also filling the evening with laughter, he felt he had graduated to the big boys’ table. I felt that way every time we interacted.

Gene would reject the label of hero. But he was one to me, as were and are a number of others who have acted and often sacrificed to make a difference in people’s lives.

So maybe the answer to Wilbon’s question is simple after all: Be selective and sparing about whom you put on the shelf in the first place. Then you won’t have to ask how long they will remain there. Read more

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Gregory Favre: Just a footnote to his famous football cousin

I always wondered what it would be like to be a footnote. Now I know:

“Poynter has a longtime association with Brett Favre’s cousin, Gregory Favre, who was in no way involved with this story.”

There you have it. I am a footnote. How did it happen?

A website called Deadspin broke a story that alleges that Brett Favre (he’s the quarterback) sent videos of his private parts and messages that match the pictures to a woman who worked for the New York Jets. Poynter published a piece a couple months ago criticizing Deadspin, and the Deadspin folks claimed I obviously influenced that story.

So now full disclosure demands the footnote. And it appeared for the first time on the current Favre-Deadspin on Poynter.org.

For the record: Brett is a distant cousin in six different ways. I am 34 years older than he. I have never met him. I did know his grandfather. I left home 15 years before he was born. He doesn’t know how to pronounce our name, and neither do any of the sportscasters. Or Deadspin, for that matter. I have talked to the managing editor of Poynter.org once in a year and that was about a good place to buy po-boy sandwiches.

But just think how many footnotes I can collect over this story. Starting at the age of 10 at my family’s weekly newspaper in Bay St. Louis, Miss., The Sea Coast Echo, I have worked in about a dozen newsrooms.

So I can see it now.

If the Echo runs this story on Brett it should publish a footnote: “Gregory Favre worked for the Echo 57 years ago, but he didn’t contribute to this story about his cousin.”

My first daily, the Jackson State Times, is long gone, so it is off the hook, as is the Jacksonville Journal and the Chicago Daily News. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is still around, as is the Dayton Daily News, The Palm Beach Post, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Sacramento Bee, McClatchy Co. and WPLG-TV in Miami.

Let’s see if I can suggest a few more footnotes to save time.

Atlanta: Gregory Favre, whose name rhymes with suave, and cousin to Brett, whose name rhymes with carve, was assistant sports editor here but he hasn’t been involved in a decision at the paper since he left in 1963.

Chicago: Gregory Favre, Brett’s much older cousin, was managing editor of the Sun-Times, but he hasn’t been back in our newsroom since he left when Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 1984.

Sacramento: Gregory Favre was executive editor of the Bee and vice president of news for McClatchy and a cousin of Brett’s, and anyway he was a 49ers fan when he was here.

I am sure Dayton and Daytona, Corpus Christi and WPLG can think of their footnotes. If not, feel free to copy any of these. Or just put your own deadspin on it.
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Paulson: First Amendment Needs to Be Taught Better, Protected

Ken Paulson has had a full dance card for the past three decades.

He has been the editor of USA Today, the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, editor or managing editor of four other newspapers, and is now president and chief operating officer of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum.

If you ask him which accomplishment at this juncture in his career has given him the most satisfaction, he’ll say his work on behalf of the First Amendment.

“I can’t really single out a specific accomplishment,” he says, “but being part of the First Amendment community and working to help Americans understand the value of these five freedoms in a free society has been extraordinarily rewarding.”

Being part of the First Amendment community? Don’t be so modest. How about being one of its most eloquent and dedicated leaders? Paulson, who is also a lawyer who served as executive director of the First Amendment Center for seven years, hosted the Emmy-nominated television program “Speaking Freely,” and authored “Freedom Sings,” a multimedia stage show celebrating the First Amendment.

Paulson assumed the editor’s role at USA Today after the paper suffered a massive blow in the Jack Kelley scandal. When he left the paper earlier this year to take over the Newseum, former USA Today publisher Craig Moon said, “Ken’s news judgment and management expertise helped steer the newspaper through those rough waters. There is no doubt that there can be a perfect leader at the perfect time.”

I recently interviewed Paulson via e-mail to get his thoughts on how the Newseum is faring, his concerns regarding the future of journalism, the First Amendment and more.

Gregory Favre: You resigned as editor of USA Today, the country’s largest circulation newspaper, to become president and chief operating oficer of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum. What motivated this change?

Ken Paulson: The Newseum is a remarkable new museum that aspires to inform and educate all Americans about the value of a free press. It’s really the Yankee Stadium of the First Amendment and an arena I wanted to play in. I loved my five years with USA Today and would only have left it for the opportunity to become president of this extraordinary organization.

Do the demographics of the Newseum visitors represent an older population more attached to print than a younger audience? How are you satisfying both? And how has the deep recession affected the attendance at the Newseum?

Paulson: The Newseum draws a wide range of age groups, including close to 100,000 grade school and high school students a year. Older visitors tend to spend more time on our gallery of historic newspapers, and younger people tend to get caught up in our interactive displays. There’s something for everyone, and thankfully, the deep recession has not taken a significant toll on the Newseum. We drew more than 700,000 visitors in our first year. Our best year at the old Newseum was less than 500,000.

The Freedom Forum has long been involved in programs promoting diversity in the news industry. Is it continuing to do so? And is it supporting any other training efforts?

Paulson: The Freedom Forum continues to operate the Diversity Institute and its programs, including the American Indian Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars, Multimedia Scholars and the Native American Journalism Career Conference. One of our challenges has been the slowdown in newsroom hiring. We’re trying to help build the supply of well-prepared minority journalists, but they’ll need jobs.

Given your experience as a lawyer and a forceful, nationally-recognized leader on press freedom issues, how fragile do you think the First Amendment is at this moment in our history?

Paulson: The First Amendment is taken for granted by the American people, and few appreciate how much it affects their daily lives, but I wouldn’t describe it as fragile. There’s an interesting cycle throughout American history that pits fear against freedom.

There have been periods in our nation’s past when Americans have truly been frightened, including the Civil War, World War II, the Red Scare era and the years immediately following 9/11. During those periods, there has been tremendous pressure on all of our civil liberties, including the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

Our goal at the Newseum and First Amendment Center is to build goodwill for freedom of the press, speech, petition, assembly and religion so that they are better protected during times of duress. No matter what you think of the National Rifle Association’s efforts or politics, there’s no denying that it’s able to rally the troops whenever anyone encroaches on Second Amendment rights. All of us who care about these core freedoms of expression and faith need to do a better job of shoring up protection for the First Amendment.

What should news organizations and schools at all levels be doing to educate people about the First Amendment?

Paulson: It remains a great disappointment that the concepts of the First Amendment are taught in such cursory fashion at most American schools. The irony is that most Americans will tell you with confidence that Betsy Ross designed the American flag (she probably didn’t) and can recite the words of the Pledge of Allegiance (originally crafted as a magazine promotion in the 1890s), but can’t tell you what the First Amendment says.

We’ve recently launched a new coalition of educators, attorneys, actors, activists, musicians, educators and journalists called The Liberty Tree Initiative, with an eye toward promoting First Amendment awareness and education. There’s plenty of work to be done.

If newspapers and their staffs disappear, or continue to be downsized to the point of being impotent, who do you think will take responsibility for holding the powerful accountable?

Paulson: That’s really the untold story of the current crisis facing the newspaper industry. If newspapers go down, corruption will go up. The question is, will Americans pay to have watchdogs? Somebody has to pay for journalism and the scrutiny of public officials, just as taxpayers have to pay for police and fire departments.

Crowdsourcing and collaborative online communities can help keep government in check, but the traditional role of a reporter — half detective and half town crier — can only come from news professionals whose work week is devoted to gathering information.

With newspapers in a downward spiral across the country, and a city such as Ann Arbor, Mich., losing its only daily, do you visualize a day in the near future when there will be no daily community newspapers left? And what’s your view of the future for national newspapers such as USA Today?

Paulson: I’m bullish about the future of newspapers in print, particularly in smaller communities across the United States. There’s a reason newspapers have been a part of American life since 1690. The good ones reflect their communities and help spur constructive change.

And until recently, they had a pretty good business model. Newspapers will never make as much money as they once did, but there are generations of Americans who still view a daily newspaper as a vital part of their daily lives. Unless newspapers cut their resources so dramatically that they no longer function as a community asset — and there is that risk — daily community newspapers with a higher per copy price will be around for a long time.

National newspapers present a distinctly different scenario. The big advantage of a local news organization is that it truly owns the market. On a national level, there are competitors everywhere. But national brands do have the added advantage of widespread recognition and identity. Smart news media companies will find a way to leverage that brand for a variety of products and services.

In terms of print products, I do believe that you’ll find copies of USA Today on sale across America for at least another 10 years, unless it’s superseded by a technological breakthrough that takes the Kindle concept several steps further. If you can have a newsprint-like experience on a battery-operated device, there’s no real reason to have the newsprint.

USA Today has an extremely strong presence in the online news world. How do you come down on the charge versus no-charge discussion for online news and information?

We should have charged from the beginning, and I only hope it’s not too late now. It’s interesting to hear people talk about the digital “revolution” as though it’s something that snuck up on us. When I was editor of Florida Today in Melbourne, Fla., I launched an online version in 1993, and I certainly wasn’t the first.

In truth, online versions of America’s newspapers have been around for almost 20 years. We can’t wait any longer. I think it’s going to take a couple of courageous national publishers to step forward and say they are not giving it away anymore, and others will follow suit. In the end, consumers do get what they pay for.

You are on the ladder to be president of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) in 2011-2012. Has the time come for many of the organizations representing newsroom employees to start talking about merging? Or can ASNE and other journalism organizations survive independently?

Paulson: The economic reality is that many of the industry’s most visible associations are under tremendous pressure. Mergers make a lot of sense. No matter what medium you work in, the advent of multi-platform journalism means that your organization needs to be more expansive in terms of both its work product and its membership.

Frankly, the more members representing diverse journalistic interests in an organization, the more vibrant it is likely to be. Read more

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Milton Coleman: Diversity Isn’t a Social Experiment; It’s an Industry Imperative

“The times are changing, but the mission has not.”

That’s what Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, has to say to young journalists of color in today’s rapidly-evolving news media world.

Coleman’s advice comes from his own experiences, from four decades of fighting on the front lines for diversity in newsrooms and in content, from never forgetting the mission.

He started his career in his hometown at The Milwaukee Courier, a weekly serving the African American community. After a few more jobs, he joined the Post as a reporter in 1976. He was assistant managing editor/metro news before being named senior editor.

Currently, he is vice president of the American Society of News Editors and treasurer of the Inter American Press association.

Coleman recently answered my questions via e-mail about why diversity is important to newsrooms in terms of staff and coverage. Here is our edited exchange.

Gregory Favre: Given your background as a long-time champion for diversity in the news business, do you think it will be possible to maintain diverse newsrooms in these days of cost-cutting and enormous changes, especially at newspapers? If so, what needs to be done?

Milton Coleman: It is possible and it is imperative that newsrooms retain as much as they can of the diversity we have built over the years. We are losing many journalists of color because of downsizing brought on by the new financial realities in our industry and the economic realities in our country.

We also continue to lose journalists of color for the same reasons that fueled a thinning of their ranks earlier, namely the feeling that there are glass ceilings in our newsrooms and that our organizations are less committed to the kind of journalism that brought many minority journalists into this business. 

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Some newsrooms have seen the current situation as an opportunity to expand diversity rather than merely a chore to preserve it.

UNITY: Journalists of Color
has called for a diversity summit during the Asian American Journalists Association convention in August to address these very issues, and I will be a member of a delegation representing the American Society of News Editors at this summit.

We also must not lose sight of the fact that the progress we have made to date is necessary and laudable, yet still insufficient. Most newsrooms are far from credible reflections of the communities they would serve, and now more than ever, we need more diversity at the top.

If we can’t retain the gains in diversity that have been made over the past quarter of a century, does that mean our mainstream news organizations will no longer truly reflect the rapidly growing demographic changes in this country?

Coleman: Could be. Mainstream news organizations are even more at risk now of losing communities of color than they were a short while ago. The same factors that frustrated journalists of color inside the newsrooms and have prompted them to leave the business are reflected in their respective communities. Many communities of color are disproportionately non-readers of mainstream newspapers.

The people in these communities don’t see themselves reflected in our output. The rise of digital media is lowering the barriers of entry into the news and information business and creating greater opportunities for successful niche operations. Mainstream news organizations will be increasingly challenged to capture the largest possible audience share in an increasingly diverse United States.

Given the push for immediacy in the media today, how do we deal with ethical and harmful issues, such as hateful language?

Coleman: Online media, I believe, will develop its own standards, influenced by the modulation of more and more traditional news practitioners with their well-reasoned standards and ethics regarding this evolving media. Just as we have developed certain standards of practice in the old ways, we will develop similar ones in the new modes. The past can guide us, but in some ways we will need to make it up as we go along.

In California alone, there are now about 1,000 minority media outlets. This reflects a trend that is happening across the country. What do you think this means for the future?

Coleman: As I said earlier, mainline news organizations of today will be increasingly challenged in their desire to have the same status in the future. Diversity is not a social experiment; it is an industry imperative.

Indeed, it may be that mainstream publications will give way to mainstream news organizations, in which there is not so much a flagship publication, but rather a flagship organization in which the whole is the sum of its parts — a collection of niche operations that collectively serve a large and diverse audience through multiple platforms.

But inherent in that is the likelihood that more smaller operations will succeed and flourish, as apparently is the case in California, and that can be as good for minority and other consumers as it is threatening for legacy providers.

Any advice for young journalists of color?

Coleman: This should be an exciting time for journalists of all colors. The toolbox of communications technology at our disposal is greater than ever before and there are great stories to be told.

As we old school folks work to find ways to preserve public interest, accountability and investigative journalism, our young ones need to be prepared to see journalism as probably a less lucrative profession in the short run but still an essential part of our democracy and a fun gig to have. The fundamental nature of the news business is still the same: get the story, get it right, get it first.

Young journalists of color need to throw themselves into their news time as we old heads did into ours, and press to be the best in the business and as often as possible strong representatives of their communities. The times are changing, but the mission has not.

You will take over as president of ASNE next year in what certainly will still be a year of chaos in the news industry. What do you see ahead for ASNE and for the newspaper industry?

Coleman: What has been the newspaper industry is evolving into the news industry. That is a major reason why the American Society of Newspaper Editors is now the American Society of News Editors.

ASNE can no longer be limited to the leaders of ink-on-paper dailies, but instead must be inclusive of a broader array of news organizations and professional newsroom leaders, and we have changed our by-laws to address that.

Yet we will maintain our commitment to lead the fight for freedom of information and for increased diversity in our industry, as these are among our core values. As an organization, we will be more oriented toward member service and less elitist.

You recently changed jobs at The Washington Post. What is the emphasis and direction of your new position?

Coleman: As senior editor, I will remain in the newsroom and continue to be involved in various operations. I will continue to be the liaison between the Post‘s newsroom and that of El Tiempo Latino, which the Post purchased five years ago and was again last year recognized as the best Spanish-language weekly in the nation by the National Association of Hispanic Publications.

Right now, my principal Post newsroom responsibility is to overhaul our ethics and standards, as well as our corrections guidelines and practices, including how we deal with these issues in a multimedia world. I am very excited about that challenge.
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Kaiser Takes Over as ASNE President: ‘Our Profession is in Crisis’

Marty Kaiser, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, officially becomes the new president of the American Society of News Editors this week. But there won’t be the ceremonial passing of the gavel before a crowd of his colleagues at the convention in Chicago. 

And he will not have an opportunity in person to flesh out the theme of his presidency or issue a call for action during this time of volatile change in the news media and economic downfall that is crippling newspapers.

Because, of course, there won’t be a  convention. It was canceled after too few editors indicated they could attend.

So Poynter, via e-mail and telephone, gave Kaiser the chance to say what he would have told ASNE members.

Favre: You will not have the opportunity to accept the gavel of the president’s office and speak of your plans to your colleagues at the convention. What would you have said to them?
 
Marty Kaiser: I have a passion for journalism and ASNE. I know our industry and members have high expectations for this organization. As incoming President, I take that to heart.
 
Our profession is in crisis. We know that leadership could never be more important. To be relevant in these turbulent times, ASNE must be essential.
 
We might take comfort when Google CEO Eric Schmidt says it is a huge moral imperative to help newspapers and has called the Internet a “cesspool.”

However, Schmidt has been critical of the newspaper industry’s lack of innovation. And I doubt many editors would disagree. Clearly a more important message to editors is Schmidt’s comment that “incumbents very seldom invent the future.”
 
We must be leaders in the invention of the future of journalism. ASNE is changing so we can better help each other.  
 
Our communities and our shrinking staffs depend on us like never before. Our industry’s business model is broken, but we as journalists have an obligation to protect, nurture and build trusted news coverage that is necessary to our democracy. Our journalism provides context and explanation to a complicated world.
 
We know that journalism has long been recognized as a sacred trust and explicitly protected through the First Amendment. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
 
In their book “The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel echoed Jefferson by saying, “The purpose of journalism is to provide people with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”
 
They came up with the nine elements of journalism that I would condense to: our obligation to truth with a discipline of verification and a loyalty to citizens.
 
Warren Phillips, former chairman and CEO of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, explained it this way: “The Wall Street Journal is not just another business. It’s not … making corn flakes, it’s not making nuts and bolts and widgets.” He continued, “It performs a very real public trust function in that it is responsible for providing reliable, trustworthy information on which people make very, very important decisions, decisions affecting their livelihood, political decisions that affect the governance of society.”
 
In this time of great change, as leaders of the news industry, we need a strong vision and supporting cultural values –- a goal for our newsrooms and, for that matter, our companies to rally around. There isn’t a clearer goal than what our journalism can do for our communities. Yes, our newsrooms are smaller, but let’s not ignore some of the outstanding journalism we are still doing. Having judged and read the work of national contest winners this year, I have come away still inspired by the exceptional work being done by so many journalists in print and online.
 
But we all know that won’t be enough to find our way through the great challenges and changes we face.
 
We are in a fight for our future. As someone who has spent more than 35 years in this business, here is how I would look at the situation — and, yes, hindsight is always easier, but I think there are some clues for our future.
 
When the national competitive landscape changed with the industry consolidation into essentially one newspaper cities we lost much of our competitive and even entrepreneurial drive.
 
There were two or three papers in most large cities when I got my first newspaper job. And I know from personal experience, some newspapers, such as the one where I worked in Chicago, were staffed up to 20 hours a day and published almost around the clock. It was much like the reporting we are doing online today.
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Our instinct to dig deep and fast — to not just bring the great story to the public, but to beat the competition and be more appealing to readers — drove us.
 
The underdog newspapers were fighting for their lives. We talked about how — if we didn’t connect better with readers — the newspaper would not survive.
 
Today there is a similarity with many news organizations fighting to survive. Just as societal shifts impacted the business model to kill many newspapers years ago, so it has again. This time the situation is vastly more dramatic. Today we have many, many more competitors. The time is long past where the main producers of news were the people who owned the printing presses or the TV and radio towers. We are challenged by greater societal changes, rapid technological advancements and demographic shifts of a magnitude few understood or knew how to prepare for.
 
The urgency could never be greater to take chances, be creative and use new technology to be more meaningful. What is really different this time is the speed at which we must move. It calls for an entrepreneurial mindset.
 
This is why the culture of our news organizations is so important. The culture comes from leadership. Leaders create it. We are responsible for changing our staffs.
 
Despite the crisis we are experiencing, we need to encourage in them the passion that we still find in our work, nurture the joy, and recognize that it is still a calling, not just a job.
 
Like those underdog newspapers of years ago, we need to innovate, stir things up, raise a little hell, and welcome new ideas.

And if we do that, we might just build new bridges to our readers and users that neither they, nor we, ever before imagined.
 
The theme of your year as president is based on providing leadership during a time of a crisis that you reference in your previous answer. What should editors be doing to guide their remaining staffs through these uncharted waters?
 
Kaiser: Leadership in any era calls for developing an inspiring vision, supporting strategies, building a great team to execute and establishing a culture that values trusting and supportive relationships. Even as we go through the painful and agonizing cuts we must stay focused on the big picture and still be part of the daily routine. It encourages and reassures staff members that editors know their work and care. This connection to the staff is vital to building trust in leadership essential during this period of volcanic change.

We know we can’t do everything. Our staffs are reduced and we must make choices deciding what our communities need, concentrating on the coverage most important to our readers, while being transparent with them about our decisions.   

As leaders we must be able to admit mistakes and encourage expression of opinions. Top editors must help their staff members think bigger and push them out of their own comfort zone.

We must reinvigorate the importance of diversity in our news coverage and our staffs to stay connected to our communities. The demographics of our country are changing rapidly. To remain relevant we must reflect the great diversity of our communities, whether in race, gender, lifestyle, political view, age, economic status, religion or cultural background. 

Paramount to the success of any news operation, especially during times of crisis, is the underlying values of the top leader. This goes beyond a well thought out, communicated and enforced ethics policy, but is a personal tone, a work ethic that is demonstrated daily.

It is the open discussion, commitment to seeking the truth, practice of fairness and ensuing discussions of the values behind our decisions that reinforce a strong ethical environment. These actions send a resounding message to the staff, the readers and the entire company that journalism is about credibility and credibility cannot exist without strong ethics.

Our ethics and values is the foundation of journalism and journalism is essential to a free society. 

Next year’s convention is slated for Washington. How confident are you that there will be one and, if so, what instructions will you have for the convention program committee?

Kaiser: I believe it is necessary for ASNE members to come together, after this year’s hiatus, no matter the economic concerns we may still be facing. As an organization we have to change our conventions to be more practical and offer newsroom leaders the best solutions to evolve their own news operations and build strength for the future.

This was the type of convention we had planned for this year in Chicago. Just as our newsrooms are being reinvented, last year’s president, Charlotte Hall, and her convention chairs, John Temple and George Stanley, were planning a reinvention of our convention to demonstrate how ASNE is changing to better serve its members.  The best of these ideas will be used next spring in Washington. 
 
What is the financial state of ASNE, and is it time to start seriously thinking about the consolidation of some of the news associations, such as ASNE and APME and perhaps others? Why did you change the name of ASNE?

Kaiser: We are fortunate that we are able to overcome a very difficult economic year and move forward with generous help of the ASNE Foundation. We are broadening our membership structure to include online editors, academics, etc. ASNE is going to look different. That is why we changed our name from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to the American Society of News Editors. We needed to show we are neutral about how we distribute our journalism. What we are about is leadership. The capacity to harness leaders who care about news and the quality of journalism necessary to serve a civil society is our sphere. Our members care foremost about the ethics and standards of gathering and reporting news and about FOI/First Amendment issues.

I don’t know whether we need to consolidate, but we do need to explore ways that we might work together to strengthen news associations.

Your newspaper has consistently been publishing some excellent journalism of accountability and was recognized last year with a Pulitzer Prize and this year as a finalist. But you have also had to cut your staff. Can your paper, and others, continue to provide this kind of unique and vital journalism? And if you and others can’t, what will this mean in communities such as Milwaukee across this land?

Kaiser: I believe we have no choice, despite our smaller newsroom staffs, to provide the journalism that is essential to our communities. The fight for our future in Milwaukee is no different than I described in the answers to the first two questions. We have to make tough choices with our diminished resources. In Milwaukee we have tightened our focus to four major area:

  1. Expertise. This covers everything from the Packers to our investigative team. We believe we must be the experts and give readers and users news and information they can’t get anywhere else. It is our chance to be unique and relevant. To survive I believe we have to go for the big impact stories in the paper and on the Web. This is all part of taking advantage of technology from letting fans interact with our Brewers writer online to using computer assisted reporting to gather, slice and dice information in ways we once never dreamed possible to strengthen our investigative and enterprise reporting.
  2. Immediacy. We still have the largest news gathering staff in our state. We strive to break news as quickly as possible. We must use new technology to enhance our storytelling using everything from text to audio interviews, to blogs to photography to video.
  3. Multimedia. Once again we believe that new technology gives us better ways to tell stories. Like other news organizations we are expanding your use of video and multimedia.
  4. Interactivity. News is no longer all about us. We can use new technology to strengthen our reporting because it is now easier to interact with readers of the paper and users of our Web sites to improve the sources of our reporting.

No one knows for sure if the changes we embrace now will ensure the future of journalism as we know it. However, we have no choice as leaders. We know that journalism based on our ethics and values is necessary to a democratic society.

In her book “Leadership and the New Science,” Margaret Wheatley wrote:

“We live in a time of great stirring storms, both natural and human made. … It was from this place of feeling battered and bruised that I listened one night to a radio interview with a geologist whose specialty was beaches and shorelines. Read more
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NAMME Director: Diversity Important to News Organizations’ Survival

Toni Laws vividly remembers the days when she was told to sit in the back of the bus and when she could only buy a ticket at the black-owned movie theater in her hometown of Wilmington, Del.

That was years before she became a vice president at the Newspaper Association of America, directing what was in 1992 the newly created diversity department. For more than a decade in that role, Laws helped launch several innovative programs that increased minority staffing at media companies across the country.

While her place of employment has changed, her commitment and dedication in the fight for multicultural representation hasn’t. After retiring from NAA in 2003, Laws joined the National Association of Multicultural Media Executives (NAMME) as its executive director.

That same year, Laws received NAMME’s Lawrence Young Breakthrough Award. “Her legacy,” the announcement said, “includes programs that have developed a critical mass of well-trained minority managers, poised to assume greater responsibilities.”

I recently asked Laws some questions via e-mail about her thoughts on how newsroom diversity is faring during difficult times in the industry.

One of the programs you helped create when you were at NAA was the Train-the-Trainer program aimed at helping media companies develop a greater appreciation for the value of our differences.  As you look back on this program, how do you judge its success?

Laws: I still hear from many of the “trainers” and folks who participated in those sessions. Many of them say it stands out as a “life-changing” experience. So, some measure of success occurred, if the metric is the impact on individuals. But my intent was to move the needle at the company and industry level. In that respect, I would have to say the effort failed. 

We are a nation that avoids direct, honest conversations about race and other differences, and programs that encourage or enable these conversations are important and needed. Meaningful, sustained change best occurs when you have a critical mass of people driving that change.

The Train-the-Trainer program was centered on the belief that a group of peers affirming the importance and need for conversations about race, gender and other differences in the workplace would lead to that meaningful change, but the critical mass was never reached.

NAMME is and has been a resource for multicultural talent and has provided forums to discuss multicultural issues. Are media companies still knocking on your door for executive talent, and is there an ongoing conversation about multicultural issues?

Laws: I’m sorry to say it, but I see much more interest in our talent from companies outside the industry than from within the industry.

The conversation has taken a major backseat to issues of survival in this economic downturn. We have come full circle in that many cannot see how diversity can be an important key in the strategy for economic survival.

Given the transformation of the news business, what’s your forecast regarding diversity in the media?

Laws: It’s hard not to be cynical during these times, but I’ve never been comfortable wallowing in that space for long. Clearly, the economy has had an adverse impact on media professionals of color.

Strangely, I take heart in recent examples, such as the New York Post‘s chimp cartoon fiasco, because they provide the strongest argument one could have for the need and value of diversity in the newsroom, especially among the decision makers. Diversity among peers would have provided the first line of filter. Even more important, diversity at the top would have squashed the cartoon before it got to print.

All that said, I think that media as we know it is under siege. Far too many media outlets don’t see diversity as an integral strategy to pull them out of the quagmire in which they are mired.

You have talked in the past about people being the driver of their destiny. In this age of massive cuts, and with no end in sight, how can one control his or her destiny?

Laws: I still strongly believe everyone is the driver of his or her own destiny, even though it’s difficult to see oneself as driving much of anything in these times. First, I think it is very important to keep yourself connected to others. Isolation can be your worst enemy. 

When you are the primary wage earner for your family and you have lost your job through no fault of your own, it’s almost impossible not to feel that you are a failure in some way. 

At these times it is especially critical to be connected to folks who have firsthand knowledge of your worth — who know about your professional accomplishments, the kind of impact you have had on others, etc. Their task is to counter your negative self-talk and to remind you of the real and valuable contributions you make each day.

What should human resources directors and other leaders be doing to help people through this transition?

Laws: Now more than ever, human resources directors and other leaders should be the strongest advocates for upping the training investment. Employees left behind after rounds of layoffs must be groomed for leadership and retooled to perform duties that aren’t currently part of their skill sets. 

What questions are you hearing from young journalists of color about their futures?

Laws: Young journalists are strongly motivated by the desire to make a difference. Bringing authenticity, accuracy and fairness to coverage of the communities they represent is a primary factor in their choice to become journalists.

That said, there are very real concerns about the future and what kind of job security there will be. Also, there is the perception that earning potential is pretty low.

I think that despite those fears, young journalists have a firm belief that a critical role of media is to give us a glimpse into worlds about which we know nothing and to prepare us to better understand and effectively interact as those worlds collide.

A purely personal question: What were your thoughts on that day when President Barack Obama was elected?

Laws: Oh, this has been “heady” stuff for a child of the 60s. I grew up in Wilmington, where we could only attend the black-owned Hopkins movie theater and where, despite integration, I was told to sit in the back of the bus and, as an elementary school student, was taken to the suburbs and told to get off the bus by a white bus driver.  I was abandoned out there with no money and not knowing where I was. 

These were some of my experiences back then. So, despite working so long for change, and today, still being counted among the few at the top of organizations, I had low expectations that I would see such a change in my lifetime.

It’s hard to express my pride and admiration for President Obama, and his wife, Michelle. Tears come to my eyes when I think of my parents and my regret that they did not live to see it happen. I kept my daughter from school that day because she had to witness this moment of history and share it with my closest friends, some of whom came from as far as California to share the event. All of them in some way were pioneers in integrating schools and workplaces.  Read more

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In Death Do Us Part: Saying Goodbye to Your Newspaper

There is no easy way to say goodbye to the newspaper you love. How we grieve is so personal. Some cry, some bundle it inside, some seek isolation, others company.

And worst of all is when the death comes quickly. When we don’t have time to prepare our thoughts, to really share last conversations and memories, to make sure the past is honored.

That must have been the way the staff at the Rocky Mountain News felt last week when they were told that in one day the Rocky was going to die, victim of the incredibly bad economy, victim of enormous change, victim of self-inflicted wounds.

One day to work with all the pride they possessed, pride in themselves, their colleagues and their paper, to produce the best possible last edition they could give their readers. Their farewell gift to the community the paper had served so well for 150 years.  

There was no time to grieve.

No time to think about tomorrow.

No time to reminisce about the good days.

My mind races back to that day in 1978 when the Chicago Daily News, one of America’s finest newspapers, ran its last lead story headline: “So Long, Chicago.” A reunion of all its great journalists would fill the bleachers at Wrigley Field, but at that moment it was an afternoon newspaper without a Sunday edition competing against two morning papers and losing millions each year. So our owner, Marshall Field IV, stood on a desk on a day in February and told us the Daily News would be closing in weeks.

The staffs of the Sun-Times, also owned by Field in those days, and the Daily News would be combined, but many quality and talented journalists would lose their jobs.

Helping to make those stay-or-go decisions, as managing editor, were the toughest days and nights of my managerial career. Only one thing helped: The state of newspapers was much more optimistic in those days before the explosion of technology.

Recruiters from other papers across the country flew into town, or simply walked across the street from the Tribune, to talk to those losing their jobs, or to attempt to lure away those who might be anxious about joining the combined staff of two formerly competing papers.

But everyone needed time to grieve. We had lost a loved one. Chicago had lost a friend. The newspaper industry had lost one of its best.

People needed to talk. They needed to be heard. They needed to look ahead. They needed time to heal. They needed someone to help them focus.

Thirty years later Daily News veterans still receive a regular newsletter keeping us up to date on what’s happening with those of us still around. There are some memories you never want to surrender.

That’s why I often re-read the column the great Mike Royko wrote the day before the last edition of the Daily News. And why I have quoted excerpts from it often in speeches.

Let me share some of Mike’s words. I know the men and women at the Rocky share the same feelings Mike expressed so eloquently. I just wish they had been given more time to express them. Here’s Mike:

When I was a kid, the worst of all days was the last day of summer vacation, and we were in the school yard playing baseball, and the sun was down and it was getting dark. But I did not want it to get dark. I did not want the game to end. It was too good, too much fun.

I wanted it to stay light forever, so we could keep playing forever, so the game would go on and on.

That;s how I feel now. Come on, come on. Let’s play one more inning. One more time at bat. One more pitch. Just one. Stick around, guys. We can’t break up this team. It’s too much fun.

But the sun always went down. And now it’s almost dark again.

As I said in an ASNE speech in 1995, it was indeed dark that day and my soul was bruised, as were the souls of many, and the indelible mark of that void will never wash away. We loved the Daily News to death. I just wish we could have loved her to life.

The same can be said for the Rocky and any other newspaper that dies. Read more

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ASU’s Rodriguez Teaches How to Provide In-Depth Immigration, Latino Coverage

When Chris Callahan, dean of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, went looking for someone to be the Carnegie professor and to help launch a program that is part of the university’s Southwest Borderland’s Initiative, it didn’t take him long to land the person he wanted.

It was Rick Rodriguez, former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and a past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He’s a journalist who has years of experience reporting on and directing the coverage of immigration issues.

Rodriguez learned a little of what it’s like to be a farm laborer as a teenager picking strawberries near his hometown, Salinas, Calif. Then after graduating from Stanford University, as a reporter for his hometown newspaper, The Californian, he helped cover the organizing of farm workers by Cesar Chavez.

He spent the next 25 years as a reporter and editor at the Fresno Bee and The Sacramento Bee, where he was one of the industry’s leaders in the push to bring more diversity into newsrooms.

Recently, Rodriguez answered my questions about the Arizona State program, diversity and immigration via telephone and e-mail. 

Favre: First, how goes the transition from the newsroom to the classroom?
 
Rodriguez: The transition goes well. It is a totally different pace. First of all, you have a lot of time to think, which is a luxury that most editors haven’t had in quite awhile. Of course, you miss people, the bustle of news and the hustle of a newsroom and the adrenaline rushes to which you’ve become accustomed or addicted to over the years. But there is something really rewarding about building for the future while helping instill the best values and standards of the past. It’s nice to try new things without having to “monetize” them immediately. It’s energizing to work with students who remain quite optimistic and dedicated despite the industry’s troubles.

It’s terrific to be at Arizona State, which just opened a new state-of-the-art journalism school and is emphasizing the best of old and new media. We have a university president, Michael Crow, who is very supportive of the journalism school, and a dean, Chris Callahan, who is both a visionary and the hardest working man in the business. It’s terrific working with my old friend Tim McGuire, and Len Downie will be joining us soon. I’m enjoying getting to know others on a very fine faculty. Plus, I’m having fun learning new multimedia and other skills at age 54.

Given the economic earthquake in the news business today, what are you telling the young people in your class?

Rodriguez: I tell them that the need and demand for news and information is greater than ever and that there will always be a market for great storytellers, photographers, artists, Web designers, editors and broadcast journalists. I tell them they’ll have to be much more versatile than we were at their ages, that photographers will have to be able to write and writers will have to be able to do audio and video. And none of that seems to faze them. They’re willing and able to pick up new media very quickly. I also tell students that while it’s a very uncertain time, it’s an exciting time because they will help invent the future. And while the business models for the future are still being invented, I encourage them to put themselves in positions to compete for traditional jobs or be part of creating new ones.
 
What is the emphasis of the course you are teaching?

Rodriguez: This semester just ended, and I taught a course in depth reporting. My goal has been to try to get students immersed in their stories, to force them to ask tougher questions than they have in reporting daily stories, to do the background work — reading, researching and interviewing — that is necessary to do in-depth reports. I also have tried to emphasize telling stories on multiple platforms either by taking audio and video themselves or working and planning early on with photographers or broadcasts students, emphasizing teamwork. I’ll be teaching that in the spring as well.
   
At the same time, I’ve been working to launch a new program, which is part of Arizona State’s Southwest Borderlands Initiative. As part of the initiative, the Carnegie Corp. is sponsoring a very unique multi-disciplinary seminar in which scholars from five different departments at Arizona State will share their expertise on Latino issues in the borderlands with top graduate and undergraduate students. It’s a terrific line-up that includes nationally prominent civil rights leader Raul Yzaguirre, borderlands expert Carlos Velez-Ibanez and other highly accomplished professors who will lecture about health, education, urban planning, religion, immigration, demographics and other topics. The goal is to give the next generation of journalists the background and skills to provide more sophisticated, nuanced and deep reporting on Latinos and the borderlands, both in the Southwest and in Mexico.

Isn’t there a follow-up project?

Rodriguez: The Carnegie seminar starts in the spring and is the prerequisite for entry into the News21 project sponsored by the Knight Foundation and Carnegie. It’s a 12-university, $7.5 million dollar, three-year program headquartered here at Arizona State with a goal of helping students create innovative, multimedia ways of telling in-depth stories. It’s a 10-week summer program in which top-notch students are selected through competition for paid internships. Stories from all of the News21 campuses with be posted on the Internet, of course, but will hopefully make their way into widespread media distribution. At Arizona State, students will concentrate on in-depth stories gleaned from the lectures in the Carnegie seminar.

So in the end, I’m hoping to help make sure in-depth journalism continues to thrive, which I think was one of the hallmarks at The Sacramento Bee, and that coverage of the fastest growing segment of the population — Latinos — is much better and deeper than it has been in the past.

Can you share some of the ideas behind the stories your students are producing?

Rodriguez: This last semester we focused on the border fence. Students have done a lot of really good work — some terrific photography, including a guy easily scaling the 16-foot fence, and some fine stories about problems with the virtual fence, manufacturing plants on the Mexican side of the border that ironically are losing jobs to China, the impact of the fence and illegal immigration on a Native American community and more.

Given your background covering the California farm workers as a reporter and following the movement as an editor and now as a teacher, what do you think the future will be like for immigration in this country?

Rodriguez: Right now because of strict laws against employing illegal immigrants, but mostly because of the rotten economy, we’re seeing fewer people crossing the border into Arizona to try to work. In fact, Mexico is experiencing an unexpected influx of people coming back and is seeing fewer dollars sent home by those working in the U.S. That, I think, will last for a while but ultimately will be temporary.

In places such as California and Arizona, where growth hinges on the construction industry, the demand for labor will grow and workers will come back. I think the Obama administration is going to have to confront this head-on. It’s interesting that the new head of Homeland Security will be Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s former governor, who is well-versed in the immigration issue. Stay tuned; it will be a big issue.

As we move deeper and deeper into the digital era, what is the outlook for diversity in newsrooms and in content?
 
Rodriguez: Unfortunately, but I guess understandably, I think diversity has taken a few steps backward because of the industry’s turmoil. It’s clearly been placed on the back burner because of so many other issues. In the digital era, there will be interesting opportunities. For example, Latinos are heavy users of mobile phones and other devices, so the industry will need an understanding of the community — the potential market — in order to capitalize. There’s a business rationale for continued diversity. There, of course, remains a digital divide, meaning there are still folks who don’t have the means or knowledge to connect digitally, and we need to attack that as a society.
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NAHJ President: Membership Is up, but Number of Hispanics in Newsrooms Is Down

Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has compiled a busy resume during his newspaper career: reporter, metro editor, Washington correspondent, managing editor, executive editor, syndicated columnist, author.

In that mix there is one constant: advocate for diversity.

And now you can add another title: president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), a position he was elected to last year, at a time of turmoil in our industry, a time when financial support for organizations such as NAHJ is shrinking, a time when there are questions about the attention being paid to diversity these days.

Pimentel, a former colleague and longtime friend and editor of the editorial pages of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since June, 2004, recently replied to several e-mail questions from Poynter. Here is the edited exchange:

Gregory Favre: What are your goals for NAHJ?

Pimentel: I, of course, want to keep the organization healthy with the help of our very able board and staff. That means financially mostly, but I’m also thinking here of the professional health of our members. We all know how tough things are for media companies. Our membership feels it acutely. It seems as if we hear weekly, if not daily, of someone new ensnared by layoffs or buyouts, both of which translate to being out of work.

So, we are looking at the services we provide to keep people in jobs or find new ones. Our annual conference — this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in June — is being planned with these needs in mind. But beyond the conference, we are launching programs that, we hope, will offer help to members suffering in this economic downturn.

Has the support for the association dropped in these tough times and, if so, how are you balancing the budget these days?

Pimentel: Our membership is actually up, from 2,160 in 2007 to 2,370 in 2008. I think it’s probably because of a keen effort on behalf of the board and the staff to keep membership up and an acknowledgment in these tough times that we’re an organization worth belonging to.

But there is no doubt that support we’ve had in the past from news organizations is drying up. We’ve had success with our Parity Project, in which we partner with newsrooms to increase Latino staffing and improve coverage, but that is even getting harder to sustain when so many organizations are hemorrhaging jobs.

We enjoy the support we do get from non-media companies but believe that it is simply shortsighted of media companies to not contribute to their long-term interests. And given the changing demographics, we believe the work NAHJ does to ensure Latino representation in newsrooms and accurate representation on news pages and news broadcasts serves that long-term interest.

Balancing the budget for us simply means looking at what’s coming in and spending commensurately. That has meant a smaller staff than in previous years even though our needs haven’t decreased. But we’re doing OK — under the circumstances.

How do you assess the future of diversity in newsrooms and in print, broadcast and online? And how much impact will the financial woes of the industry have on it?

Pimentel: I worry about it a lot. I did before I assumed this position, and I do even more since I took the helm. Anecdotally, we are hearing of many Latinos losing jobs. Absent hard data, it might be hard to argue that journalists of color are suffering disproportionately from the cuts.

But here’s what else we know: There are already too few Latinos in journalism, just looking at ASNE’s annual census. When you lose folks you have too few of anyway, it has to hurt the considerable contributions this kind of diversity affords a newsroom. You have to wonder who, then, will cover the communities of color with the understanding, sensitivity and balance that comes from personal cultural experience. Losing bilingual or bi-cultural expertise will hurt news organizations’ ability to accomplish the basics and stymie their ability to rebound once this economy recovers. Anecdotally, it seems as if news organizations are not taking diversity into account enough to suit us.

The future of diversity in print, online and broadcast? Questionable and very much up in the air at the moment. Financial impact? These cuts are being billed as matters of financial necessity. We’re saying that there are smart ways to cut and dumb ones. We’d put cutting diversity in that latter category.

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As you look back on your years in the news media, what in your view has been the biggest advancement in the area of diversity?

Pimentel: I’ve seen coverage of Latinos — and generally of communities of color — go from horrid to improved. I say improved and not some other superlative because we’ve still got some work to do. I still see too much coverage of Latinos, for instance, as just victims or suspects, but this is better than it used to be. And too much of the coverage of immigration has focused on the numbers of illegal immigration rather than the faces and underlying causes of this migration. And it is simply mind-boggling that I still read headlines with the word “illegals” in them.

Also, sometimes it seems as if the only Latino story out there is immigration. There is so much more to the community than that, though the numbers of immigrants are significant. NAHJ is mulling some initiatives on immigration coverage. It used to be that when newspapers covered “minorities” or ran stories on stats or demographics, Latinos were the invisible people. Not so much anymore.

There have been employment advances that, I fear, are being eroded in this economic climate. Though we can cite a number of Latinos who have advanced to senior positions, it’s still not nearly enough. And, sadly, these numbers also have eroded as of late. For instance, I’d be hard-pressed to name more than one Latino(a) executive editor of a major newspaper at the moment.

I know of three Latino editorial page editors who work for a major newspaper (I’m one of them), but generally see a paucity of Latinos on the opinion side generally — as editorial writers or columnists. These positions come with bullhorns installed and can have a huge impact. So overall, better, but a ways to go yet. It’ll be a difficult trek if diversity is lost in a newsroom.

You have been involved in mentoring throughout the years. What is your best advice about building mentoring programs in a newsroom?

Pimentel: If no formal process exists, just do it, either as a mentor or mentee. For the mentee, my advice: Seek out wisdom. It doesn’t matter much if this wisdom comes from a white, black, brown or purple journalist. Wisdom is wisdom.

From the perspective of senior newsroom leaders: Mentoring is simply good business. It ensures talented succession. It ensures that the culture of ethics and public watch-dogging that you know keeps a news organization thriving occurs as a matter of course because you’ve made sure it will — on purpose. Diversity in newsrooms mostly only happens on purpose. A talented newsroom, grown from the bottom up, only happens on purpose as well.   

I’m curious; you have been a reporter, assistant city editor, metro editor, Washington correspondent, columnist, editor and editorial page editor throughout your career. Which of these positions was most rewarding and why?

Pimentel: They’ve all been rewarding in different ways, but I’d have to say two positions in particular were a real hoot to do. If you get the chance to be the editor of your hometown newspaper, do it. Yes, folks will be calling you reminding you of the inane things you did way back when, but there is a sense of obligation that comes when it’s the town or region you grew up in. I know, editors are usually transplants and they still care about the communities they serve because, well, good journalism just dictates that they do. But layer on top of it the fact that it’s your town or state and this adds some emphasis.

The second position: A columnist who was lucky enough to be nationally syndicated. Man, getting those letters and e-mails from all over the country telling me to go back to Mexico (I’m from California), told me I was having an impact. Being an editorial page editor is a thrill because it allows one to exercise community leadership in different ways. As much as I love my current job, though, some of my fondest memories are from those two other jobs.

What do you tell young Latinos and Latinas who want to be journalists? And what questions are they asking about their futures?

Pimentel: They are asking if journalism has a future. And I tell them that it does. It does because what we do is too important to lose. The platform might change from simply print or broadcast to more multimedia efforts, but the kind of journalism that requires its practitioners to seek truth, to speak it to power, to value the needs of the governed more than the governors and, as more than one editor has observed, to turn over rocks, will always be needed.

I don’t know; this might be more hope than reason speaking here, but I’m hoping the news industry doesn’t become purely about the business of news. I’m hoping that quality journalism isn’t just deemed a luxury that impacts the bottom line. There is a future for the nimble and those unafraid to learn new skills, while retaining core principles.
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