Newspapers Cutting Along the Color Line

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What do you cut when your publication’s in a financial pinch? Diversity programs, of course. The Associated Press just announced its decision to terminate the 2007 “Diverse Visions / Diverse Voices” minority mentoring program—a week after the Feb. 15 application deadline. Students received a letter informing them that due to limited resources, the 5-day workshop would not take place. Applicants were required to submit a resume, three writing samples, a 500-word essay, and two letters of recommendation. The AP said it would run the program “every other year.” We’ll see.

The AP isn’t the only program to add insult to injury in cutting minority programs. The Village Voice pulled a similar stunt last spring, when it announced days after the application deadline for its Mary Wright Minority Fellowship that the program would be suspended because of the paper’s purchase by New Times (now Village Voice Media). Again little comfort to those who hustled to get the lengthy application form to the paper’s Cooper Union headquarters on time. The program is, however, happily back on track and now offers a weekly stipend of $400, instead of the previous $150.

Village Voice also recently replaced its self-declared “white male Jew from the Upper West Side” editor-in-chief, David Blum, with a Latino, Tony Ortega, after Blum’s mostly-white hiring policies were challenged in a story meeting. Blum didn’t apologize for who he was, and was, the Huffington Post reports, the subject of complaints from minority staffers. Blum argued that there were only so many qualified minority candidates, and that journalism schools like Columbia University, where he was formerly an adjunct professor, were “98 percent white.” As a Columbia J-school alum, I can say that the program at least felt diverse with tons of international students, plenty of Hispanics, a couple of Asians, and an ample helping of Jews—thought it was woefully lacking in African-Americans. Ortega will be the Voice’s 5th Editor-in-Chief since the publication was bought by New Times, revealing that maintaining diversity may be one of the Voice’s lesser problems.

Speaking of faltering New York papers, Newsday announced last week that it is losing Mira Lowe, associate editor of recruitment, and John Gonzales, the paper’s court reporter. Lowe, whose always-friendly face was a regular at media job fairs in New York City, is moving on to Chicago to work on recruitment at Ebony and Jet, and she’s taking her African-American husband, Newsday reporter Herbert Lowe, with her. Gonzales is going to New Orleans to join the AP in covering Hurricane Katrina recovery. Seems they’re interested in minority issues.

Newsday has lost 6 other journalists of color since December of 2006. This is a serious blow to the publication, which prides itself on covering issues in the heavily-ethnic New York boroughs and Long Island that papers like The New York Times tend to ignore.

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—Jen Phillips

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