Obituaries

New York Times apologizes for using ‘slave mistress’ in obit

The New York Times

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, has been busy of late, especially with criticism of the paper’s weekend expose of Amazon’s work culture. The flap included her mild dueling with the newspaper’s executive editor over the piece (she thought it had flaws, he didn’t).

Well, they are in sync Thursday with the paper having erred on Saturday in a long, front page obituary of Julian Bond, the civil rights leader.

It included the line, “Julian Bond’s great-grandmother Jane Bond was the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer.”

Many readers protested to Sullivan “on the grounds that a slave, by definition, can’t be in the kind of consensual or romantic relationship that the word ‘mistress’ suggests.’ One of them noted it wasn’t the first time the phrase had appeared in a Times obituary.”

Executive Editor Dean Baquet, the paper’s first African-American executive editor, told her that it was a clear mistake. Read more

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The Journalist and the Activist: the legacies of Julian Bond and Gene Patterson

Julian Bond of the Georgia state legislature and civil rights leader is seen in 1968. (AP Photo)

Julian Bond of the Georgia state legislature and civil rights leader is seen in 1968. (AP Photo)

A half century ago, Julian Bond fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Bond is now dead, but his legacy lives on.

So does that of the former newspaper editor and Poynter chairman Gene Patterson, who became Bond’s defender and critic.

A young charismatic activist, Bond was elected to the Georgia state legislature in 1965. His antiwar rhetoric and support for the Negro cause won him few admirers in state government, and the legislators refused to seat him.

As editor of the Atlanta Constitution from 1960-68, Patterson had emerged as a leader on civil rights and social justice, but he favored American intervention in Vietnam. Read more

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The Hollywood Reporter drafted its story about Amy Pascal’s departure in December

On Thursday, Amy Pascal announced she was stepping down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, ending one chapter of the ongoing saga sparked by the hacking of the company in November.

The Hollywood press jumped on the story. Deadline got there early with a brief (since updated) timestamped at 8:56 a.m. The Hollywood Reporter responded minutes later with a longer story including details from Pascal’s professional career and the hacking scandal that brought her down. It was authoritative and detailed and put the breaking news into context.

That’s because it was written months ago.

Most of it, anyway. Hollywood Reporter Executive Editor Matthew Belloni tells Poynter that the bulk of the story was compiled by senior film writer Tatiana Siegel in December, when it became clear the fallout from the hacking scandal jeopardized Pascal’s position at the company. Read more

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11 years later, Idi Amin’s son objects to Guardian obit for his father

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin died over a decade ago, in August of 2003. Like news organizations all over the world, The Guardian published an obituary that told the story of how Amin grew up, came to power and then led with a bloody, iron fist. (As noted in the obit, the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva estimated the death toll during his leadership to be at least 80,000 and likely closer to 300,000.)

Amin’s death and the obits that followed it are old news. But not for his son, Hussein Amin. He recently wrote to Chris Elliott, The Guardian’s readers’ editor, to object. “Allow me to raise my displeasure at a Guardian obituary about my father, Idi Amin,” he wrote.

Amin, it seems, intends to run for public office and wants to clear some things up about his dad. Read more

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How your byline could outlive you

mediawiremorningGood morning. September. Media stories. Let’s do this.

  1. Facebook may not be publishers’ friend: Editorial decisions are increasingly replaced by Facebook’s opaque algorithm, Emily Bell writes: “Accountability is not part of Silicon Valley’s culture. But surely as news moves beyond paper and publisher, it must become so.” (The Guardian) | Related: “Get ready to see a new set of Facebook publishers who see big and mysterious traffic boosts in the near future, as Facebook rolls out its autoplaying video.” (Re/code)
  2. Who will run Condé after Si? At some point Si Newhouse will no longer run the company. Soon-to-be-former Fairchild honcho Gina Sanders is someone to watch, Joe Pompeo writes. (Capital)
  3. What you need to know about this Jennifer Lawrence nude-pictures thing: The FBI is investigating how naked photos of several celebrities ended up online.
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Obits reflect bias ‘of our forebears,’ NYT editor says

New York Times obituaries editor Bill McDonald said “I understand the complaint” that the Times publishes far more obituaries of men than women. “But I don’t accept the notion that the predominance of men on our pages is a reflection of sexism or male insensitivity or any other kind of ingrained bias on the part of the obituaries editors, as Margaret Sullivan and others imply.”

Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, wrote Monday that “Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective. It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”

In an email, McDonald wrote, “I would submit that it’s a reflection of social history.”

Our mission is to note the deaths and explore the lives of people of one of two (or more) generations removed who essentially made news or reached a level of fame or achieved something that had wide impact.

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New York Times is still mostly writing obituaries about men

The New York Times | Mother Jones | Slate

After Lynn Melnick pointed out on Twitter that women made up 7 of the 66 people recently memorialized in The New York Times’ obituaries section, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan counted, too: “My count yielded similar numbers,” she writes.

 

“Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective,” Sullivan writes. “It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”

A Mother Jones story late last year found that about 21 percent of the Times’ obituaries were for women. Read more

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1940-2014: Michael Janeway, former editor of The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Monthly

The Boston Globe | The Atlantic

Michael Janeway, former editor of The Boston Globe and executive editor of The Atlantic Monthly, died Thursday at his home in Lakeville, Conn., at age 73.

The Globe’s Joseph P. Kahn quoted author Todd Gitlin on Janeway’s career:

“When Mike saw journalism slipping off the edge into inconsequence or superficiality, he was on the case,” Gitlin said. “He recognized it was a matter of moment to the political life of democracy. I see him as a standard-bearer for professional journalism, a connoisseur of the nobility of intellectual life and journalism’s responsibility to honor it.”

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Joe McGinniss, scourge of politicos and chronicler of crime, dies at 71

Associated Press | Los Angeles Times 


Stories about author-journalist Joe McGinniss are re-emerging in the wake of news that he died Monday in a Worcester, Mass., hospital from complications of prostate cancer.

He once moved next door to Sarah Palin to gather material for his unauthorized biography about her, according to the Associated Press. The subject of his best-selling book, “Fatal Vision,” sued him, claiming McGinniss tricked him into believing the convicted murderer was innocent. McGinniss’ publisher settled out of court for $325,000.

Associated Press reported:

The tall, talkative McGinniss had early dreams of becoming a sports reporter and wrote books about soccer, horse racing and travel. But he was best known for two works that became touchstones in their respective genres — campaign books (”The Selling of the President”) and true crime (”Fatal Vision”).

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New York Observer’s Peter Kaplan dies at 59

The New York Times | The New York Observer | The Huffington Post

Peter Kaplan, The New York Observer’s editor from 1994 to 2009, died Friday of cancer, The New York Times and Observer reported. He was 59.

The New York Observer described Kaplan as “an outsized figure at the newspaper and across the city itself, not least for launching the careers of writers in every corner of journalism, book publishing and beyond.”

The Observer reprinted Kaplan’s tribute to editor Clay Felker as an example of Kaplan’s adage: “Never hold your best stuff.”

The Huffington Post wrote of Kaplan’s tenure at the Observer:

During his time there its distinctive salmon-colored pages gained a reputation as an authoritative source on the activities and the foibles of New York’s notables.

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