September 7 - 13, 2011
September 7 - 13, 2011
9 N O . 52
contents JERRICK SMITH
6 Suing Hate The family of James Craig Anderson sues the teens they say murdered him because he was black. COURTESY COLONEL REB PAC
Cover illustration by Kristin Brenemen
Mississippi ballot initiatives have ranged from serious—football —to simply not feasible. COURTESY DR. LARKIN CARTER
ronnie agnew encouraged Agnew to go into print journalism. Agnew calls Norton “my mentor.” Before he graduated from Ole Miss in 1984, Agnew started working at The Greenwood Commonwealth. At The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett newspaper, he got a huge opportunity in 1986. “They trained me at 27 to be assistant city editor,” he says. Agnew returned to Mississippi as managing editor of The Hattiesburg American, another Gannett paper, in 1993. Four years later, Agnew was editor of The Dothan (Ala.) Eagle. In 2001, he came to The Clarion-Ledger as managing editor, and in 2002, he became executive editor, the first African American to head that news operation. Agnew says he doesn’t have a lot of plans for MPB, yet. He has a lot of “self-imposed” homework. “I inflict a little too much pressure on myself,” he says. After his first week at MPB, his wife of 25 years, Cynthia, 47, noticed an immediate change when he wasn’t carrying a laptop. The Agnews have three children: Rachel, 16; Victoria, 18; and Christopher, 20. The MPB staff impresses Agnew. He’d like to continue and expand programs such as Job Hunters and the high-school football games. “We have a responsibility to be smart with all our finances,” Agnew says. “The more money we can raise, we can tell Mississippi stories.” —Valerie Wells
35 Iron Doc Meet the first Mississippian to qualify for the Ironman triathlon championships in Las Vegas and Kona.
42 Spoil Yourself Sometimes you just have to take time out to thoroughly pamper yourself from head to toe.
On Sundays, Ronnie Agnew and his eight brothers and sisters piled into his father’s 1967 Buick LeSabre and headed to church. “My mom and dad were very religious,” he says. They didn’t let the kids watch a lot of TV, but they watched “Sesame Street” when it hit Mississippi Educational Television in 1970. “If you grew up in the country without cable, ETV was big,” Agnew says. “Kermit and Big Bird were family members.” As a child in Saltillo, Miss., Agnew shared a bedroom with his brothers. It made them close as adults, said Agnew, now 48. “We are crazy about each other,” he says. Most of his siblings have moved out of state, but Agnew remains. “Jackson is home,” he says. “I’ve turned down a lot of money to stay in Mississippi. Somebody has to stay. Somebody has to make a difference.” In August, Agnew became executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting after more than nine years as the executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger. His last official act for the Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper was a presentation at the National Association of Black Journalists in early August in Philadelphia, Pa. Back in Saltillo, a teenaged Agnew saw sportscaster Bryant Gumbel on TV. “That’s what I want to be,” he says. He went to the University of Mississippi majoring in radio and television. One of his professors, Will Norton,
4 ........ Publisher’s Note 4 ................... Slowpoke 6 .......................... Talks 12 ................... Editorial 12 .................... Stiggers 13 .................. Opinion 26 ............... Diversions 27 ....................... Books 28 ..................... 8 Days 30 .............. JFP Events 32 ....................... Music 33 ......... Music Listings 35 ...................... Sports 36 ................. Astrology 37 ........................ Food 41 ............... Body/Soul 42 .... Girl About Town
Valerie Wells Valerie Wells is assistant editor of the JFP and BOOM Jackson. She also covers the media in Mississippi on a quest to figure out who controls the news. Email ideas to Valerie@ jacksonfreepress.com. She wrote the cover story.
Kristin Brenemen Art Director Kristin Brenemen is an otaku with penchant for dystopianism. Her Zombie Survival Kit has been upgraded with three sonic screwdrivers. She designed the cover and many pages in this issue. House Hufflepuff represent!
Sadaaf Mamoon Editorial intern Sadaaf Mamoon is a senior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. She loves film scores, Greek mythology and naming inanimate objects. Her spirit animal is a Pink Fairy Armadillo. She wrote the Jacksonian.
Mike Day At the “Hindsonian” at Hinds Community College, cartoonist Mike Day won top awards from the Mississippi Press Association and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. He was also a cartoonist for The Hattiesburg American. He drew the cartoon.
Rebecca Wright Rebecca Wright is a Mississippi transplant from Michigan. She loves hanging out with family and friends, reading, and home projects. She has a passion for both human and animal rights. She wrote a music piece.
Walter Biggins Walter Biggins is a Dallas native and an editor at University Press of Mississippi. He blogs at quietbubble.typepad.com. He wrote a book review.
Pamela Hosey Pamela Hosey is originally from West Point, Miss. She loves to write, read James Patterson novels and spend time with her family. She wrote a food piece.
September 7-13, 2011
Former editorial intern Jason Huang loves life’s banter and welcomes all adventures. Nothing can compare to stumbling on an unexpected adventure, living it, and then walking away with a strut. He wrote the Body Soul story.
by Todd Stauffer, Publisher
‘Newspaper Bites Self’
oincidentally, today’s Editor & Publisher e-blast featured a story about USA Today’s long-standing habit of padding their official “paid” subscriber numbers with the “freebie” newspapers they distribute through hotel chains. (If you’ve done much business travel, you may have seen a copy outside your door or in the lobby.) They do this by offering a low price to the hotels for those copies, and then convincing the hotels to put a disclaimer in small print, saying that the guest can request a 75 cent refund from the hotel if you don’t want the paper. If you don’t complain, USA Today interprets that to mean you “bought” the paper and counts it. Turns out a guy in California got peeved enough to sue Hilton over the 75 cents. And, because that probably seems like too small an amount for invoking the federal courts, his lawyer decided it was an excuse for a class-action lawsuit. So they’re trying one. In the E&P story, writer Jay Schiller says he’s spoken with lawyers who wonder why it isn’t the advertisers (instead of a reader) suing Gannett Co., owners of USA Today, for the way it props up circulation, and thus advertising rates, with this dumb scheme. This week’s cover story is about another of Gannett’s properties, The Clarion-Ledger. In it, JFP assistant editor and media writer Valerie Wells takes a long look at Jackson’s “statewide” paper, noting the heights that the paper reached in the early 1980s—and how far it appears to have fallen since that time. Some of The Clarion-Ledger’s woes are, no doubt, due to the incredible disruption that the entire news business has been subject to over the past decade courtesy of the Internet. The rise of Craigslist, eBay and a variety of real-estate websites have put a strong dent in the revenues that daily papers came to rely on. To counter, Gannett had the foresight to partner with other newspaper chains on Cars.com, for instance, and uses it to entice car dealers to advertise in print with packages that include the desirable online service. Smart stuff. But the “dumb stuff” are games such as the USA Today distribution scheme. You know—where they try to get around the basics of writing interesting stories and selling local advertising based on loyal readership. It’s dumb stuff when they try to use their deep pockets to bully other media or to try and change the playing field so that it benefits their bottom line as their journalistic quality suffers. And, bless their hearts, Gannett seems to excel at the dumb stuff. One May morning back in 2006, I got a call from the distribution manager of The Clarion-Ledger, asking if I’d be willing to meet at Cups in Fondren. This was easily my first call ever from a Clarion-Ledger employee in an official capacity. When I got there, he presented me with my “opportunity”—Total Distribution Network, or TDN. The idea was that The Clarion-Ledger was going to place big green plastic boxes all over town, and I could pay them to
allow me to place my publications in their plastic boxes. This was, I was told, a service. I was also shown a spreadsheet filled with names of locations where TDN already had exclusive contracts. Meaning I could pay them to distribute there. And, oh, if I already had a box or a rack there—well, I needed to pick that up or they would pick it up for me. It was no longer allowed. Contractually. As you might imagine, I found this disconcerting. When I got back to the office, I told Donna Ladd and co-founder Stephen Barnette, and we all hit the phones. Stephen called his advertisers who had their names on the list; I called mine, and we all called some fellow publishers listed on the “Accepted Publications” list. Within 24 hours we figured out that (a) a number of locations were disputing the “official” story we’d gotten from the C-L representatives and (b) a number of local publishers had had a very similar meeting, and were very concerned. Within 72 hours, a number of us local publishers had met to discuss and vent (the JFP brought a bottle of wine); within a few weeks, we had a plan that involved a lot of shoe leather and some luck. It took a while, but, today, TDN is gone, and MIPA, or the Mississippi Independent Publishers Alliance, has more than 100 shared distribution locations. It’s a great group of folks working to make sure that local, free publications in the metro can remain local and free. The C-L’s scheme not only backfired, but it strengthened the relationships among their local competition. Just think, all that time they could have been focused on the news. If you’re the sort of person that thinks a business’ only purpose in the world should
be to make money for its shareholders, then Gannett is your sort of company. They’ve slashed and burned their way to continued profitability, and at margins that make other newspaper companies blush—even while their newspaper business is shrinking. Smaller staffs, smaller papers, smaller readerships. But if you’re the sort of person who thinks a newspaper’s purpose should be something in addition to making money, you’re not alone. Perhaps the lament I hear more often than almost anything else (now that Melton is no longer mayor) is how under-served people feel by The Clarion-Ledger, and how little they feel they can trust the “paper of record.” Yet, there is the rub. As a publicly traded multinational corporation, Gannett acts like it, too often opting to try “dumb stuff” to prop up shareholder value in the short-term instead of doing the smart stuff (and hard stuff) of investing in their newsroom and bringing quality journalism to readers. (These days, they even give their dumb stuff handy, dumb-sounding names: Deal Chicken, anyone?) What can we all do? Shop local. (Sorry, wrong phrase; that’s perilously close to the name of a trademarked Gannett website designed to prop-up their waning circular business from Walmart and Best Buy. Too bad it thinks I’m in Memphis. Dumb site.) Spend local. Support local media, local restaurants, local retail, and the people who invest their time, energy and money in their community. Thank our over-worked and passionate reporting staff when you see them running from meeting to meeting. Oh, and keep reading the JFP and telling our advertisers— we’re growing revenues, slightly profitable and, next week, we start our 10th year in business. Thanks for your help!
news, culture & irreverence
Family Files Wrongful Death Suit JERRICK SMITH
Wednesday, Aug. 31 August comes to a close as the first full month with no American casualties in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. In Afghanistan, however, August was the deadliest month since the invasion, with 66 American soldiers killed. â€Ś A Greenville man pleads guilty to threatening to kill President Obama and blow up a hospital that refused to do surgery on his wife.
Gannett Co. Inc. owns 82 daily newspapers in the United States, including USA Today and The Clarion-Ledger.
Brad Oberhousenâ€™s win in the District 73 Democratic primary is facing a challenge. p 11
Thursday, Sept. 1 WikiLeaks admits it lost control of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables. The cables were unedited and reportedly contained the names of confidential informants. â€Ś Authorities say a warrant has been issued for a suspect in the hit-and-run death of a Jim Hill High School student last month.
Saturday, Sept. 3 Sarah Palin unveils a five-step plan to a better America at a Tea Party rally in Iowa, but does not reveal whether her plan involves a run for president. â€Ś College football fans celebrate the seasonâ€™s opening weekend. Sunday, Sept. 4 Wildfires in Texas kill two people and destroy almost 400 homes. â€Ś Tropical Storm Lee spawns tornadoes and floods in Mississippi, killing at least one person.
September 7 - 13 , 2011
Monday, Sept. 5 Armed forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi cross from Libya into Niger. Nigerâ€™s foreign minister says Gadhafi is still in Libya. â€Ś Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. declares a State of Emergency for Jackson as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee wash over the state, raising river, creek and stream levels.
Tuesday, Sept. 6 The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians holds elections for their chief again after the Tribal Council threw out an earlier election. â€Ś The family of James Anderson files a wrongful death suit against seven teens. Anderson was killed in June in an alleged hate crime. Get news updates at jfpdaily.com.
Jackson Attorney Winston Thompson III and Southern Poverty Law Center Chief Trial Counsel Morris Dees announced a civil lawsuit against Rankin County teenagers for the wrongful death of James Craig Anderson.
orris Dees is not singling out Mississippi in his organizationâ€™s efforts to seek justice for an alleged hate murder of James Craig Anderson because he was black. Speaking to reporters on Monday at the Hinds County Courthouse, Dees, chief trial counsel with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his organization has filed similar lawsuits in Long Island, N.Y., and
Linden, Texas. In 2008, a group of teenagers in Long Island, N.Y., beat Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, and one teen, Jeffery Convoy, stabbed him to death. A judge sentenced Convoy to 25 years in prison for manslaughter as a hate crime, but acquitted him of the hate-crime charge for murder. In Texas, the organization helped Billy Ray Johnson, a disabled black man, receive
$9 million in damages after four white men beat him in 2003. â€œI think in Mississippi, this isnâ€™t something that happens every day,â€? Dees said. â€œObviously there is systemic racism built into this state. We want to make sure that you know we arenâ€™t picking on Mississippi. â€Ś But we want to make sure the whole story gets out.â€? Jackson attorney Winston Thompson III of the Cochran Law Firm and the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of Andersonâ€™s family, against Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, Sarah Graves, Shelbie Richards, William Kirk Montgomery and Dylan Butler, all of whom are 18 or 19. One 17-year-old defendant is included as well. The lawsuit states that on June 26 the group of teens took turns beating Anderson in the parking lot of the Metro Inn hotel in Jackson. Thompson said the family is still grieving and decided that they were not ready for public interviews on Monday. The lawsuit accuses the white teenagers of intentionally setting out June 26 in two vehicles to â€œgo f--k with some n----rsâ€? in Jackson. Anderson was in the Metro Inn motel parking lot in Jackson when he was first beaten. During the attack, one of his LAWSUIT, see page 7
4HEN OR .OW
elow are 1960s-era comments from The Clarion-Ledger and its now-defunct sister publication, the Jackson Daily News. Mixed in are anonymous comments The Clarion-Ledger allows its online posters to make. Can you tell which comments are from this week and which are from the paperâ€™s racist past? ÂłÂŞNHHSLQJWKHUDFHSRWVWLUUHGÂŞÂł Âł12:WRWKHSRLQWZHDVFLWL]HQVKDYHWRSXWXSZLWKWKHZRUOGWKDWZDVFUHDWHGE\QRWGRLQJ WKHULJKWWKLQJ\HDUVDJRÂ´ ÂłÂŞGXELRXVKRQRURIVWDQGLQJKLSWRKLSEHIRUHDEXVVWDWLRQXULQDOZLWKHDFKRWKHUÂŞÂł Âł,VLWDQ\ZRQGHUWKDWFLWL]HQVRIDOOUDFHVDUHDIUDLGRIWKHP"Â´ Âł0RVWSUHMXGLFHGEODFNVKDYHWKHSUREOHPZLWKWKHLUVNLQFRORUQRWZKLWHVÂ´ Âł2QWKHRWKHUKDQGWKHUHLVQRZHHSLQJLQWKHVWUHHWGRZQKHUHEHFDXVHRQHRIWKHLQYDGLQJ VFUHZEDOOVJRWKLVKDLUSDUWHGÂ´
â€œIâ€™ve seen a lot of projects come through here, and every one of them goes to other communities. I have constituents that need jobs and want to buy homes and want to send their kids to college just like other folks in Mississippi.â€? â€”Mississippi House Rep. Willie Perkins (D-Greenwood) during the Legislatureâ€™s special session about the need for more state-funded projects to come to the Delta.
Âł7KHYHU\QH[WWLPH\RXSDVW>VLF@RQHMXVWORRNDWWKHSHRSOHZKRDUHVWDQGLQJDURXQGMXVW ZDLWLQJWRDVN\RXIRUPRQH\RUJRLQJLQWRSXUFKDVHLWHPVWKH\XVHWRVPRNHGRSHÂ´ ÂłÂŞZHOIDUHFKHDWHUÂŞÂ´ Âł7KHUHDOSUREOHPKHUHLVWKDWWKH86*RYWDQGLWVVWXSLGODZV KDYHDOORZHGDFRXSOHRIJHQHUD WLRQVWRWKLQNWKDWOLIHLVIUHHDQGWKHUHE\WKH\GRQÂśWKDYHWRZRUNQRPDWWHUZKDWÂ´ ÂłÂŞZLOGH\HGVRFLDOEDQGLWVZKRKDYHXVHGWKLVYHQRPWRWXUQPDQ\RIWKHQDWLRQÂśVFLWLHVLQWR VLGHZDONVRIMXQJOHWHUURUÂ´ Âł7KH1$$&3QHHGVWRKROGDIRUXPDQGWKDWEULOOLDQWSURIHVVRUIURP-DFNVRQ6WDWHQHHGVWRWHOO XVWKDWZKLWHFROODUFULPHVVKRXOGEHWKHSULRULW\LQ-DFNVRQÂ´ 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11 ARE FROM RECENT ONLINE POSTS AT THECLARION-LEDGER.COM WEBSITE
Friday, Sept. 2 The federal government files a lawsuit against 17 financial institutions, claiming they sold bad securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. â€Ś Mississippi lawmakers approve a $175-million bill to fund tax rebates and incentives for two companies to open facilities in Mississippi.
by Lacey McLaughlin
news, culture & irreverence
LAWSUIT, from page 6
attackers shouted, “White power!” according to the lawsuit. Defense attorneys claim that the teens came to Jackson with the intention of buying alcohol and that Rice was trying to help Anderson who was locked out of his car. When Dedmon arrived, they claim that’s when an altercation took place. The family is seeking to recover “all damages arising of out the personal injuries sustained by Anderson,” including but not limited to funeral costs, loss of career, future earnings, cash value for the life of the decedent, and pain and suffering. In the Hinds County District Attorney’s criminal prosecution, Hinds County Judge Houston Patton rescheduled Dedmon’s pre-trial hearing for Sept. 26. Only two of the teens face charges in the county’s prosecution. “On the civil side, all we can get is money damages. On the criminal side, we are looking at potential incarceration,” Thompson said.
Thompson added that the investigation is ongoing and could not answer questions about why Anderson was the parking lot of the Metro Inn at 5 a.m. June 26. He also could not say if the teens had a prior history of violence against blacks. The lawsuit, filed today, accuses all the teens of battery. It accuses five of them of negligence by failing to intervene, alert law enforcement, provide medical aid or transport Anderson after the beating. “In this complaint, it’s important to note that the legal liability and responsibility of those involved in this doesn’t mean that they even had to have gotten out of their vehicle,” Dees said. “They had the duty once they saw what was taking place to call the police, to get out and aid Mr. Anderson or prevent him from staggering around helplessly after he had been beaten.” Dedmon’s attorney, Lee Agnew, and Rice’s attorney, Samuel Martin, were not immediately available to comment on this story. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Remembrances and Roads by Elizabeth Waibel
ayor Harvey Johnson Jr. issued a Farmers Market at the Mississippi State proclamation at the Sept. 6 Jack- Fairgrounds. son City Council meeting, calling Sept. 11 a “day of solemn commemora- Facelift for Fortification tion” in remembrance of the 2001 terThe council also voted Sept. 6 to rorist attacks. He asked people to observe approve $4 million in funding from the a minute of silence and Mississippi Developchurches to ring their ment Authority for bells at noon Sept. 11 the Fortification Street to mark the 10th anniImprovement Project. versary of the attacks. The project will bring The U.S. Senate new pavement, sidehas asked all Americans walks and lighting to to cease their work and Fortification Street. observe a moment of City spokesman silence at that time. Chris Mims said the The mayor’s proclamaproject will slow down tion states that nearly traffic and make the 3,000 civilians were street more pedestrian killed in the attacks The Jackson City Council is friendly. and 90,000 people applying for grant money to today are suffering or build a bike trail through the Resurrecting the are at risk of suffering Belhaven neighborhood. Sun King negative health effects The council did from the attack. not vote on where to put a massive equestrian statue from Belhaven Bike Trail France of Louis XIV. The statue was The mayor’s office will submit an displayed at the Splendors of Versailles application for a $1.2 million grant from exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion the Mississippi Department of Transpor- in 1998. Johnson proposed that the tation to build a “Museum to Market” statue, which has been in storage since bike trail. If the city gets the grant, it has the exhibit, be moved to the east side of agreed to match 20 percent of the award, Thalia Mara Hall. Ward 1 Councilman or $318,000. The trail will run from the Quentin Whitwell expressed concerns Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Mu- that the statue, which has been appraised seum along Riverside Drive and behind at $500,000, might be vandalized. The the water treatment plant. Part of the council voted for the planning committrail will follow a dirt path that formerly tee to discuss the statue’s placement. held a railroad track. It will end at the Get daily news at jfpdaily.com.
by Elizabeth Waibel
Not for Lack of Initiative
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“Instead of waiting for a pro-Colonel administration to come around in the future, we decided we needed to take this to the voters whose tax revenue contributes to the university,” he said. Randallson said he is extremely optimistic that he will get enough signatures, and once Colonel Reb is on the ballot, he anticipates him winning by a landslide. Butch “The Colonel” Harris of the Colonel Reb Political Of course, people Action Committee poses with Gov. Haley Barbour at the have also used ballot ini- Neshoba County Fair in July. tiatives to address other issues more traditionally associated with the constitution, such as the Carl Zimmerman of Pontotoc filed an inirole of government. In 2009, Michael Wor- tiative to suspend the Legislature and conley of Florence proposed an amendment vene a constitutional convention to rewrite stating that Mississippi and its residents are Mississippi’s constitution. not bound to obey any government order The initiative would have reinstated that “violates the U.S. Constitution or is the 1991-1992 budget and require the state extra-constitutional in its origin or in its to hold elections every 40 years to consider makeup.” In 2010, shortly after President whether to convene another constitutional Obama signed the Affordable Care Act convention. What would this new coninto law, Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Missis- stitution cost? Zimmerman put the price sippi, and Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicks- of the measure at an admirably specific burg, expressed their disapproval via ballot $23,640,492. initiative. Their initiative would amend the Some topics have come up more than constitution to prohibit any laws compel- once. The secretary of state’s website lists six ling a person or employer to participate in a past initiatives that involve capping damhealth-care system or plan. ages or regulating attorney’s fees in lawsuits. The Affordable Care Act was not the Four initiatives relating to abortion were first health-related issue that spurred people filed in quick succession between 2005 and to look to the constitution for help. In 1995 2010, when Les Riley filed the current “perand 1996, people submitted initiatives to sonhood amendment.” Elizabeth Stoner of institute a Board of Denturity that would Caledonia tried three times to get gambling issue licenses to fit, make and sell dentures. outlawed; three times a judge ruled the iniThe board would have consisted of five tiative invalid or unconstitutional. members, appointed by the governor, and Colonel Reb’s cheering section hasn’t all persons who purchased dentures fur- given up hope. The PAC has a website at nished by denturists would receive a con- colonelrebpac.com, where it is taking dostitutionally mandated 90-day, 100-percent nations, and hopes to get the Colonel on money-back warranty. the November 2012 ballot along with the The state constitution itself has come presidential election. under fire via ballot initiatives. In 1993, Comment at www.jfp.ms.
COURTESY COLONEL REB PAC
hile some voters worry about abortion, voter ID and eminent domain, others are passionate about gambling, federal meddling in health care and—that hallowed Mississippi tradition—football. Mississippi law allows voters to submit ballot initiatives for things they think should be added to the state constitution. A person may submit a ballot initiative to the secretary of state’s office and then has one year to circulate petitions and gather enough signatures—17,857, to be exact— to put the initiative on the ballot in the next election. Here’s a look at some ballot initiatives that didn’t make it to the ballot, or haven’t made it, yet. The Colonel Reb Political Action Committee wants to restore the old University of Mississippi mascot by enshrining him in constitutional writ. Initiative No. 37, filed with the secretary of state’s office in May, seeks to “amend the Mississippi constitution to require ‘Colonel Reb,’ in his traditional costumed appearance, to be visible as an active mascot on the sidelines of University of Mississippi athletic events. ‘Colonel Reb’ would be required to be included on every University of Mississippi logo, university athletic uniform and helmet, on every university Internet page, on every university yearbook cover and title page, on every university letterhead and on other specified university publications.” The initiative offers further specifics that spell out “traditional costumed and logo appearance,” as well as how he should be honored during “Dixie Week” in April. Ole Miss removed Colonel Reb as its mascot in 2003 and replaced him with a new mascot, Rebel Black Bear in 2010. During this year’s legislative session, Rep. Mark DuVall, D-Mantachie, introduced a bill to reinstate the former mascot, but it died in committee. Arthur Randallson, president of the political action committee, said he wrote and submitted the initiative after university administrators ignored student petitions.
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to bring two companies to Mississippi, which left out the study, in a 109 to 3 vote. Barbour called the special session Aug. 30 and two days later released scant details about the companies. The incentive packages would bring California-based Calisolar, a silicon manufacturing plant, to Columbus and HCL CleanTech to Olive Willie Perkins, D-Greenwood, wants more state funds to create jobs directed to the Delta. Branch. CleanTech would also open a commercial facility and research and ercy Watson knew that getting the development center in Grenada and three Mississippi Legislature to fund a large-scale commercial plants in Boonevdisparity study was a long shot, but ille, Hattiesburg and Natchez. CleanTech he had hoped it would somehow converts biomass materials such as woodmake it through the Republican-major- chips to biofuels. ity Senate last week. The House Ways and Members of the Senate had few conMeans Chairman’s measure, however, ul- cerns or complaints over the incentive timately failed, with Gov. Haley Barbour package. But several House Democrats, indicating that he would veto the bill if it especially those from the Delta, expressed came to his desk with the disparity study, concerns that minorities would not get Watson said. a fair shake in the deal. Rep. Willie Per“I’ve been around here a long time, kins, D-Greenwood, said that he was tired and I know the political realities of this of voting for state funds to go to projects body, and you have to live to push that is- destined for areas other than the Delta. sue another day,” the representative of 32 “African Americans and minorities years said moments after the Legislature are not getting money or contracts from adjourned from special session Sept. 2. this state,” Perkins said during a Ways and In 2000, the Legislature passed a bill Means Committee meeting. “... I’ve seen a establishing the Advantage Jobs Incentive lot of projects come through here, and evProgram, a tax-rebate program for com- ery one of them goes to other communities. panies and new jobs that the Mississippi I have constituents that need jobs and want Development Authority manages. The bill to buy homes and want to send their kids to also required MDA to conduct a dispar- college just like other folks in Mississippi.” ity study, to evaluate how well the state is Several House members advocated doing in hiring minorities, but did not ap- for the bill to include stronger language to propriate funds for the study at the time. ensure that minorities would be included As time ran out, the debate over in- in the 1,800 jobs that the companies are cluding a disparity study, priced at up to expected to bring to the state. After a mid$2 million, in a jobs incentive bill died morning House Ways and Means Comwith a whimper. The House approved the mittee meeting during the special session, Senate’s version of the $175 million bill lawmakers inserted the disparity study
into the bill. Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said that he has pushed for the state to fund a disparity study since 1991. The state has no data on the percentage of non-white workers being hired, or how minority contractors are faring compared to nonminority hiring or contractors in the state, or to other, comparable states. At 5:30 p.m. Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee met to consider the Senate Bill—which did not contain the study—and faced the reality that the disparity study was on the verge of death. At that point, the committee would have prolonged the process by amending the bill, adding the study for the Senate to approve. At a cost of $59,000 a day, extending the special session would have negatively reflected the House leadership, Watson said. “We had the choice of not passing the whole bill or passing the bill without the disparity study,” Watson said. “So I hate that, but that’s the way it went down.” In addition to the disparity study, other members expressed concerns that they did not have enough information about the viability of the companies to make an educated decision. Barbour was short on details about the companies, and MDA officials, who serve under his leadership, were the main source of information about the projects. Last month, three U.S. solar-power companies went bankrupt, and The New York Times reported last week that solarpanel prices have decreased by 30 to 42 percent per kilowatt-hour in the last year because manufacturers, especially in China, have increased their ability to make panels. “I still have a lot of questions that haven’t been answered,” Brown said. “The public gets mad at us for saying that we don’t know what’s in a bill, yet we are given a bill at 10 a.m. in the morning and expected to vote on it by the end of the day.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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Acoustic Crossroads HAPPY HOUR
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Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival Performances & workshops, Monroe, LA; www.nelacelticfest.net for information.
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Mostly Monthly Céilí Series
Fenian’s Irish Pub, 2-5 p.m. Learn an Irish dance or two. Beginners are welcome. Food & drink available for purchase, non-smoking, family-friendly, and free (donations welcome).
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‘Disparity’ Study Call Disrupts Session
by Elizabeth Waibel
Council Mulls JATRAN Cuts
JATRAN has proposed shortening some bus routes in an effort to cut costs.
September 7-13, 2011
ackson’s bus service could face cuts to deal with a tight budget and low ridership. JATRAN has proposed shortening some bus routes and combining others in areas with few riders. One of the proposed changes would combine Route 3, which runs between downtown and Lake Hico, and Route 6, which runs between John R. Lynch Street and Northside Drive. Another would reduce service along Route 7 near Terry Road to midday only. Route 5, which travels to the Jackson Medical Mall, would not run during the midday period, and Route 4 in the Belhaven neighborhood would be adjusted to provide service to the Medical Mall during that time. Other changes would include reducing the number of buses in certain areas or shortening routes. In December, Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. proposed cutting bus routes and laying off drivers to fund back-pay and other costs to JATRAN employees. The city reached an agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union, the bus workers’ union, that required the city to pay $984,000 in back wages and $560,000 more per year in raises. One proposal called for eliminating 21 jobs, cutting Saturday service and slashing under-used routes. Another would have eliminated nine jobs and kept the Saturday routes. The City Council Planning Committee did not pass either of those proposals. The newest proposal drew anger from some at a public hearing Aug. 30, but relief from others who said the cuts are much less drastic than those proposed in December. Sheila Adams, who rides the bus regularly, said the city should be adding buses
and hours instead of reducing them. She worried that fewer buses on the roads will lead to people missing connections. “Won’t nothing connect up downtown on time,” she insisted. Others said the route changes will lead to overcrowding on some buses and long wait times. Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba is chairman of the Special Committee on JATRAN. He said he still has questions about the proposals, such as whether the new routes will be able to run on time and whether JATRAN will review the routes every six months to check for problems. Despite the questions, Lumumba told people at the hearing that “we’re going to make JATRAN work.” Lumumba told the Jackson Free Press that the plan needs a lot more work, but most of his committee does not feel that improvements can be made between now and Sept. 8, when the council will vote on the budget. Scott Crawford is the chairman of the Handi-Lift Advisory Committee, which meets monthly to deal with service and policy issues regarding JATRAN’s wheelchairlift service. He is also a regular attendee at other JATRAN committee meetings. “(This plan) is a far cry from what we were dealing with last December,” Crawford said. “... I back this proposal as the best of all possible outcomes.” Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber also said JATRAN’s plan was an improvement over the December plan. “JATRAN has been on life support for quite some time,” he said. “... Now, I think this crisis has gotten our attention.” Yarber added that it is no secret that JATRAN is flawed, but the city has to figure out how to make it work as well as possible. “I am nowhere close to being satisfied, but I understand the process of change,” he said. Sarah Asmus rides the bus from south Jackson to her job downtown every day, as she has for more than three years. She said JATRAN needs to “look into the future so we don’t have to have this conversation every year.” Asmus suggested better marketing campaigns to make the benefits of JATRAN clear as well as better maps and websites so those who are not regular riders can understand them. She also suggested extending hours in the evening, so people dependent on the bus for transportation can visit businesses downtown later. JATRAN has 33 vehicles and makes 520,000 passenger trips annually. The council still has to vote JATRAN’s budget before the proposed changes take effect. Dewayne Cheatham, director of operations at JATRAN, did not return requests for comment. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
by Lacey McLaughlin
Polk Wants Do Over don’t see why it should cost so much money to challenge something that is a right for all Americans—and that is the right to vote.” Oberhousen, 33, is an attorney who owns Oberhousen Law Firm in Jackson. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University in 2000 and his law degree from Mississippi College in 2002. The Terry resident said he will continue Brad Oberhausen won the Mississippi House of to campaign for the Representatives District 73 primary race by 90 votes. His opponent, Gay Polk, is challenging the election. Nov. 8 election. Polk said split precincts are a result of the Legislature and counwith each different precinct, but these disty’s redistricting battle this year. If elected, tricts are based on population, and I don’t she wants to eliminate all split precincts. know if it’s possible to not have split preOberhousen agreed that split precincts cincts,” Oberhousen said. are confusing but doubted much could be “They are all over the state. But it done to change them. would definitely be easier if you could cut “It would be helpful if you could re- out split precincts.” draw all the legislative lines to coincide Comment at www.jfp.ms.
PA I D A DV E RT I S E M E N T
ho says you can’t get good food fast and at a reasonable price? The best-kept secret for lunch in town is an unlimited buffet with daily specials that include soups Wellington’s at the Hilton and tea for under $12. Where can you get this mountain of offerings, made fresh daily? Make your way to Hilton Jackson and enjoy lunch at Wellingtons. The luncheon buffet at Wellingtons is truly one of Jackson’s best-kept secrets, all thanks to Chef Brenda. For over 15 years, Chef Brenda has been preparing her Southern home cooking for both Jacksonians and visitors alike at the Hilton. Each weekday Chef Brenda and her team create true Southern staples, with healthy options sure to please even the pickiest eater. Monday serves up fried Gulf Shrimp and Louisiana-style jambalaya, which is served with garden-fresh vegetables, the soup du jour, hot rolls, corn muffins, and iced tea. Tuesday is a choice of Turkey and dressing or good oldfashioned smothered pork chops, all with the same great sides and all for under $12.What Chef Brenda is truly known for is her Southern fried chicken. Catch that on the buffet menu on Thursdays. Do you need a reason to party? How about Chef Brenda’s cooking to go? Chef Brenda and her amazing crew can provide all of her famous, hearty dishes for just about any gathering. From a Thanksgiving feast to a touchdown party, she’s got you covered. Need a place to hold your next breakfast meeting? Wellingtons is ready to serve you. If you’re looking for a way to stay healthy, look no further than Wellingtons “Dare to Be Fit” options. From edamame salad with grilled salmon to rotisserie chicken panini, who knew eating healthy could taste this good? Busy week? Let Chef Brenda handle dinner. You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it! So if you find yourself near County Line road and want a real tasty way to beat the traffic, stop into Wellingtons at the Hilton Jackson for breakfast or lunch.
ceived the wrong ballots at the Dry Grove and Wynndale precincts. “It’s up to the party to give these voters the opportunity to vote,” Polk said. “If the party does not call for a re-vote in Dry Grove, … I have no other avenues then seek a court opinion.” She added later, “The only way to take care of the mess is to at least have these 162 people re-vote in the proper district. That’s the logical thing.” That decision is now up the Hinds County Election Commission. “It’s in process, and we can’t comment on what could be pending legislation, but the process is working,” Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Claude McInnis said last week. Polk, 61, has lived in Terry for 25 years and worked as an administrator and nurse at her husband Dr. James D. Polk’s primary family-care clinic in Richland. Four years ago, the couple sold the clinic, and Gay Polk started a second career as a real estate agent. Polk said that she is worried about the cost of challenging the election if she decides to take the issue to court. “This is going to cost me a lot of money to challenge this,” Polk said. “I
inds County residents who voted in Terry’s Dry Grove precinct Aug. 2 may need to return to the polls to vote again for a Democratic candidate for the District 73 Mississippi House of Representatives seat. Gay Polk ran for the seat, but official totals show that she lost to her opponent Brad Oberhousen by just 90 votes. The Democratic Executive Committee certified the final results showing Oberhousen received 2,103 votes, or 51.09 percent, to Polk’s 2,013, or 48.91 percent. Polk filed a formal election challenge last month after reports surfaced that she had been left off the ballot at the Wynndale and Dry Grove precincts. Polk hopes that a letter she and the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee received from Hinds County Election Commissioner Connie Cochran will move her case forward. Cochran wrote Sept. 1 that voters had received the wrong ballots at the Dry Grove precinct. Dry Grove, like Wynndale, is a split precinct where two different legislators represent its residents. Cochran estimated that 162 voters received the wrong ballot at the Dry Grove precinct. Polk says that more than 200 voters re-
opining, grousing & pontificating
Journalism and Ethics
f you take one point away from Valerie Wells’ cover story this week, let it be this: Mainstream media have agendas that don’t always serve the needs of the citizens who rely on it. As more and more news outlets fall under the control of media giants and entertainment networks, the need to seek out and tell hard truths often falls by the wayside in favor of double-digit profits. We’ve never been big believers in false objectivity. There are not always two equal sides to a story, and sometimes there are more than two. Often, people are wrong and act badly, and no amount of countering opinions changes that. Every reporter has opinions, and even when they attempt to present a completely “objective picture,” their opinions will come through. As news consumers, however, our need to ferret out why certain stories are promoted over others, or why stories are spun the way they are becomes imperative. To simply take one report and believe it with no further investigation does our democracy a grave injustice. When a media source operates under the mandate of greater shareholder profits, something’s got to give. Too often, it’s the hard stuff: investigative and ethical journalism. Profit-driven journalism leans toward the lowest common denominator, often leaving readers short-changed on context and details. If a story leaves you confused and feeling patronized the blame lies in the story, not you. Corporate news allows for lapses of good judgment, such as letting rabid and ugly commentaries stand because it drives page views. It uses one set of words to describe some groups, and another set for a favored demographic—thugs and gangs, for example, instead of teens and students. And it favors the voices that make the most noise over the voices of reason, often passing off bombastic press releases as news stories without a second thought. It’s the little ethical slides that break reader’s trust. Lapses such as allowing a story written by an advertiser to appear without labeling it as “advertising,” or allowing reporters to do email interviews, or not fact-checking stories (or publicly retracting and apologizing for errors)—steadily creep into a readers’ subconscious until they’re not sure where news stops and fiction begins. Worse, they begin to believe that it’s OK and that there’s nothing they can do about it. Lapses in ethics are not OK. We can demand better, and we can strive for media literacy. Media has never been above subterfuge; imperfect human beings populate newspapers and TV stations. But we live in an unprecedented time when “news” is ubiquitous. It’s too easy to find a dozen stories that agree with our biased viewpoints, but when we begin to believe that only stories that agree with our bias are “good” and everything else is wrong, that’s a problem. It takes work to understand our complex world, just as it takes work to maintain a democracy. Government “of the people” takes people to fully participate. The fourth estate demands discerning readers. Neither is a spectator sport.
The Invisible Man
cooby “Angry Black Man” Rastus: “This poem titled ‘Return of the Invisible Man: Observations of an Unemployed Poet’ is my personal expression about black men, like me, experiencing the highest unemployment rate of all gender/race categories.”
September 7-13, 2011
Once upon a time, I had a good job. Life seemed secure and worry free. Then came the surprise layoff. Seems like everyone has a job except me.
I sat alone in my apartment in the dark and in shock, Wondering to myself how could this be. Then came along a negative thought. Seems like everyone has a job except me. I cried in anguish and anger. I asked myself, “Why didn’t I see The signs of corporate restructuring.” Seems like everyone has a job except me.
I realize that I’m not the one and only one. I know many other folk are in the same predicament indeed. I wallow in shame as I claim unemployment. I feel useless and unnecessary. Nevertheless, I’m desperate, broke, but filled with great hope In this selfish world and bad economy, Waiting, and anticipating for an employer to make that call. I need to have faith and believe. And then came another negative thought. Seems like everyone has a job except me. And as I spend my last dollar at the grocery store, The cashier smiles very nicely. And the bagger says, “Have a nice day.” Seems like everyone has a job except me.
Monuments of Hope
have long admired Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement that made him a global leader. I remember seeing a framed portrait of him while visiting a poor village in Brazil and being amazed by how global this southern black man was and is. The collective courage of ordinary southern people, embodied by this Baptist pastor and ecumenical theologian, helped to radically transform America’s democratic experiment and change the world. I am the humble recipient of their stride toward freedom, and I owe much to King’s audacious global vocation. As a preacher, I’ve been discipled by King’s ministerial vision, and I pray daily that I possess a modicum of his moral courage and conviction. He was by no means a perfect man or a saint, but his priestly and prophetic leadership during the movement models the kind of Christian leadership we need to see more of. King engaged his intellectual and spiritual powers to prophesy against America’s failures to live out the meaning of its founding creed, and helped us all to dream of a more excellent, more human way to live together. The world was King’s parish and the public square was his pulpit. Never shy of his black, southern Christian background, he stretched our consciousnesses by his radical inclusion of the Other. Jew and gentile, Protestant and Catholic, and myriad others were welcome in his congregation of liberty and justice for all. What is often forgotten, or purposely ignored, is his love for poor people, the folks that mystic Howard Thurman called “the disinherited.” King died preparing another March on Washington, a Poor People’s Campaign that sought to incite a war against poverty. His antagonism toward racism, classism and militarism put him at odds with presidents and legislators who were seen as allies for black progress. Those of us who remember King must never forget about the least, lost and left out.
On the stormy eve of his assassination, he stood in the pulpit of Mason Temple Church of God in Christ. Though weary and under the shadow of death, he made time in that Pentecostal church for sanitation workers, for he knew that they too were children of God. His vision of human dignity, equity and solidarity—across colors, cultures and creeds—made him extremely unpopular toward his death, even among progressive whites and blacks. He dared to be more than a black leader, a civil rights leader. He was a prisoner of consciousness. Now, a monument stands on the National Mall in his honor. The 30-foot tall granite structure is 11 feet taller than the other monuments nearby. Maybe it’s symbolic of how tall faith erects us when we’re on the right side of history. But I humbly submit that King would want us, in this generation, to be living stones of hope. Medgar, Malcolm, Fannie Lou, Mary McCleod and countless others would want us to be rocks of righteousness. As we ponder the times and seasons in which we live, may we hope to have their kind of intelligent, courageous and moral leadership. May we prophetically and articulately call Americans to love mercy, seek justice and walk humbly before God. Even now, in the great state of Mississippi and throughout our beloved country, we must imagine again what it means to be architects of the beloved community. We, too, can change the world. Rev. CJ Rhodes, a Hazelhurst native, attended Ole Miss and Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, where he earned his master’s of divinity. He worked as an administrative assistant to Dolphus Weary at Mission Mississippi, a Christian organization that works to bring people together. Rhodes is the pastor at Mount Helm Baptist Church, the youngest in the church’s history.
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FUNMI F. FRANKLIN, AKA QUEEN
Reaching for Greatness EDITORIAL Managing Editor Ronni Mott News Editor Lacey McLaughlin Assistant Editor Valerie Wells Events Editor Latasha Willis Editorial Assistant LaShanda Phillips Cub Reporter Elizabeth Waibel Deputy Editor Briana Robinson Music Listings Editor Natalie Long Fashion Stylist Meredith Sullivan Writers Quita Bride, Marika Cackett, Scott Dennis, Bryan Flynn, Brandi Herrera, Garrad Lee, Natalie Long, Larry Morrisey, Robin Oâ€™Bryant,Tom Ramsey, Doctor S, Julie Skipper, Ken Stiggers Editorial Interns Dustin Cardon, Brittany Kilgore, Sadaaf Mamoon, Hannah Vick Consulting Editor JoAnne Prichard Morris
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Jackson Free Press P.O. Box 5067, Jackson, Miss., 39296 Editorial (601) 362-6121 Sales (601) 362-6121 Fax (601) 510-9019 Daily updates at jacksonfreepress.com The Jackson Free Press is the cityâ€™s award-winning, locally owned newsweekly, with 17,000 copies distributed in and around the Jackson metropolitan area every Wednesday. The Jackson Free Press is free for pick-up by readers; one copy per person, please. Firstclass subscriptions are available for $100 per year for postage and handling. The Jackson Free Press welcomes thoughtful opinions. The views expressed in this newspaper are not necessarily those of the publisher or management of Jackson Free Press Inc. ÂŠ Copyright 2011 Jackson Free Press Inc. All Rights Reserved
couple of weeks ago, I started on a journey to self-discovery. It began with the realization that my everyday 9-to-5 wasnâ€™t affording me the opportunity to reach out to the people whose lives I work so hard to improve every day. I had the feeling of being up in a tower pushing buttons that affect lives, but never seeing those who are touched, never hearing from them until I was responsible for assessing their wrongdoing in some fashion. I didnâ€™t know what was missingâ€”just that something definitely wasnâ€™t satisfactory. I began to evaluate my duties as a training coordinator in the healthcare industry, and I wondered why, after many years, I suddenly began to notice a heaviness Iâ€™d been ignoring. As thankful as I am for my job, the opportunity I long for is to get in the clinches with peopleâ€™s lives outside of my office. Thatâ€™s where I need to be. My mother taught me to take great pride in who I am regardless of what I do, whom I marry or what my children accomplish. The pride she embedded in me was to celebrate just being me, just being born. My father, however, took the pride that Iâ€™d learned from my mother and showed me how to use it to empower others in their life journeys. Iâ€™ve never secondguessed the notion that my parents expected great things from me. The problem was that I didnâ€™t know how I was supposed to make it happen. I didnâ€™t understand how to be great. I struggled with this for years. I didnâ€™t realize that I had already begun to touch lives. Through friendships and other associations, I was leading people and didnâ€™t know it. It didnâ€™t take any organization or any major focus, I simply embraced those who embraced me, and I spoke from my heart, sharing my inner thoughts, my imperfections, my desires and ambitions. All the while, I encouraged others to do the same. This didnâ€™t seem like a special walk in greatness because these people were my friends, my family. Then I met my husband, and without knowing it, he has taught me the final piece to this puzzle that Iâ€™ve been working on since my pre-teen years. He taught me that my life is the lesson. He helped me see that with a degree or without it, with a â€œgood jobâ€? or without it, with him or without him, I can bring forth power in those who need it. I donâ€™t have to seek it. I donâ€™t have to follow the road of those who are successful. I have to find my own success.
The reason I havenâ€™t been able to measure the success Iâ€™ve already accomplished is because I didnâ€™t recognize its greatness. Greatness is what we are all born for; we just have to figure out what our stamp will be. As much emphasis as my parents put on preparing me for greatness, I thought I was supposed to be the next Oprah Winfrey. I felt a little let down when I hit 35 and was nowhere close to Oprahâ€™s vicinity. I have to laugh at that now. Oprahâ€™s greatness is her own. My greatness is my own, and today, I own it. It doesnâ€™t matter whether you go to work every day in a nursing home to empty bedpans, or you wear three-piece suits and stand in front of a judge. It doesnâ€™t matter if you are the mother of three with no husband, or you are longing for a relationship and the right person hasnâ€™t appeared. It doesnâ€™t matter if you sign the letter you created, or you hand it off to someone else to take the credit. It doesnâ€™t matter how many curves the road has before you, how long it took to get here or where you started. Your greatness starts with you. No one else can have it; it was created specifically for you. Its existence was birthed with your first breath. If you donâ€™t tap into your greatness and make it your reality, it will wither and dieâ€”or transfer to another person who has an open heart and feet ready to move. Donâ€™t look for someone else to validate your purpose or tell you what it is. You must reach into yourself, and find that purpose on your own. Besides, how would anyone else know what makes your heart beat faster and your spirit smile? Itâ€™s impossible. Only you can know. I donâ€™t know where this journey will lead me, but I know that I am further along today than I was yesterday, and tomorrow will take me further still. Whether Iâ€™m sitting in this tower or not, it is my charge to reach those who make my spirit smile. I suggest that you, too, find the smile within. Itâ€™s been there all this time, and it waits on you to allow it to shine through. Join me in receiving and owning greatnessâ€”your greatness and my greatness. Keep Shining! Funmi Franklin, aka Queen, is a word lover and poet. Sheâ€™s a reality show fanatic and is awaiting an opportunity to star in her own show to be titled, â€œThe Queen & Iâ€?.
â€˜It doesnâ€™t matter who you are, where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you. Always.â€™ â€”Oprah Winfrey
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Editor in Chief Donna Ladd Publisher Todd Stauffer
NEWS WARS THE RISE AND FALL OF THE
September 7 - 13, 2011
‘Black Day of Tragedy’ The Clarion-Ledger has a complicated 14 past. As its hyphenated name indicates, today’s
publication is the merger of several papers. It was already a hybrid in 1920 when brothers Thomas and Robert Hederman bought The Daily Clarion-Ledger from their cousins. During the Great Depression, the Hedermans made a deal with the competing Jackson Daily News, and in 1937, the two newspapers
and its business manager, Walter Johnson, told employees they had sold out under pressure of heavy losses of television station WJTV, owned jointly by the papers, and high court costs of a bitter legal battle that began a year ago,” The New York Times reported. Fred Sullens stayed on as editor of the Jackson Daily News. From 1954 until 1982, the Hedermans owned both newspapers in town, the Jackson Daily News, the “afternoon paper,” and The Clarion-Ledger, the “morning paper.” Since at least the 1940s, The ClarionLedger has marketed itself as a statewide paper. The older Hedermans left a mark for publishing newspapers that openly promoted white supremacy, even as white residents considered it an important community news organ. “In a very racist state, they were the standouts,” said Hodding Carter III, who worked with his father Hodding Jr., owner of the Delta Democrat-Times, in Greenville during the 1950s and 1960s. “The Clarion-Ledger was not a newspaper. It was an organ for the white segregationist establishment.” In 1957, The ClarionJackson native Charles Overby was editor of The ClarionLedger when it won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1983. Ledger publicly identified blacks with connections to incorporated as Mississippi Publishers Corp. the National Association for the Advancement to sell joint advertising. In 1954, the Jackson of Colored People, considered by segregationDaily News sold out to The Clarion-Ledger ists to be a group of communist “agitators.” for $2.25 million. The New York Times re- Printing those names endangered the safety of ported the deal happened despite a court rul- many Mississippi residents. ing that blocked the Hederman family from Julius E. Thompson, in “Percy Greene controlling both papers. Time magazine wrote and the Jackson Advocate” (McFarland and in November 1954 that the Hedermans were Co., 1994), identified the leading white Misbuying up Jackson Daily News stock. When sissippi press segregationists of the decade as Fred Sullens and other owners of the Jackson Bob Hederman Jr. and Tom Hederman Jr. Daily News found out, they tried to block a of The Clarion-Ledger/Jackson Daily News; buyout in court. The judge sided with them, Fred Sullens, editor of the Jackson Daily News; but the expense of a legal fight forced a sale. and James M. Ward, who succeeded Sullens as “The News’ editor, Frederick Sullens, Daily News editor in 1957.
rley Hood and Walter Philbin lugged their laundry bags into the laundromat near the Jitney 14 on Fortification Street. They sorted their clothes, put their coins in the slots and waited for the first wash cycle to begin. Then Philbin pulled out a stack of old Associated Press wire stories he’d been saving. It was 1971. Hood was 21, finishing his degree in sports information at Belhaven College and working at the Jackson Daily News as a sports reporter. Philbin was a cub reporter at The Clarion-Ledger covering what he could. As they waited for the spin cycle, Philbin read part of one story out loud to Hood, then stopped and wrote something in the margin. “How do you think he got that source to say that?” Philbin asked Hood. “I don’t know,” Hood said. He then offered a couple of theories. The young men put their clothes in the dryer, then deconstructed the story, trying to figure how to be great. The conversation turned to journalism and their future in it. Philbin left Jackson a couple of years later and became a crime reporter for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. He stayed with that job until he retired this summer. He developed a reputation over the years for wearing a certain hat to crime scenes. Younger reporters referred to him as “Columbo.” After his year at the Jackson Daily News, Hood got a dream job when The Commerical Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., hired him. He had grown up believing The Commercial Appeal was the best newspaper in the South. Getting that job made his family proud and his daddy cry, Hood said. In 1976, Hood returned to the Jackson Daily News and The Clarion-Ledger and stayed 32 years as a loyal newspaperman. From 1983 to 2008, he was the preeminent columnist at The Clarion-Ledger, a popular local personality who won awards and developed a strong following. Then, on Dec. 3, 2008, The Clarion-Ledger laid him off.
by Valerie Wells
The newspaper family loudly supported the Citizens’ Council, a group of white businessmen and leaders founded in 1953 to maintain segregation, especially in schools. Both The Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Daily News reported on meetings of the Citizens’ Council and gave the organization free advertising. When the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that black and white children should attend the same schools, an editorial in the May 18, 1954, Clarion-Ledger called it “a black day of tragedy for the South, and for both races.” Orley Hood, meanwhile, was growing up in Vicksburg enamored with the treasures inside his daily newspapers. Every day when he was 6, he stood at the end of his driveway and waited for the delivery guy to throw a rolledup paper at his house. The little boy learned to read in 1956, studying the Yankees’ box scores in the sports section of the paper. When he was a couple of years older, he went to the public library after school got out at 2:30 p.m. to wait for his dad to get off work from his job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Young Orley read newspapers from New York City before heading home with his dad. “You had to fight for information,” Hood said. Over in Jackson, though, the Hedermans were not interested in a free flow of information. The publishers often worked hand-inhand with the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, an official part of state government that spied on Mississippi residents and others who supported integration in any way. The commission kept extensive files that included “intelligence reports” on “race mixing invaders” and “racial zealots,” as well as letters and memos from commission leaders showing that they could and did ask “Bob” (the publisher) and “Tom” (the editor) to publish or not publish information that the white establishment believed would help or hurt their cause. In 1954, the day after the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board, an editorial on the front page of the Jackson Daily News declared “Bloodstains on White Marble Steps.” Editor Fred Sullens wrote: “Human blood may stain Southern soil in many places because of this decision, but the dark red stains of that blood will be on the marble steps of the United States Supreme Court building.”
Rea of Sunshine The Clarion-Ledger’s racism started to cool down into the 1970s as state-enforced segregation began to crumble. The Civil
Rights Act of 1964 passed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed, and the U.S. Supreme Court forced schools to integrate in 1970. Gradually, at a snail’s pace, attitudes began to shift. Then, something unexpected happened. The third generation of Hedermans took charge of the newspapers. One of them—Rea Hederman—had studied journalism at University of Missouri, one of the best journalism schools in the nation. He came back to Jackson to run The ClarionLedger in 1973. Rea Hederman hired journalists from the best schools and implemented new professional practices. He motivated his newsroom to be great. The ClarionLedger hired African Americans as professionals and increased its coverage of the black community, including The Clarion-Ledger building is at least 30 percent emptier. historic wrongs. Hood recalls those golden years under in the 1970s wasn’t aggressively racist anymore, Rea Hederman in the late 1970s and early Minor said it was “bland” until Rea Hederman 1980s. “The Clarion-Ledger had several peo- got rid of the separate “colored news” section ple on an investigative unit,” he said. “If you and started covering the black community. didn’t see them around for a couple of weeks, “He was the first Hederman to actually you knew someone was in big trouble.” write. The others never wrote a line,” Minor During those years, journalist Curtis told the Jackson Free Press for this story. “He Wilkie met Rea Hederman. He writes about revolutionized the coverage. They didn’t know it in his 2002 book “Dixie: A Personal Odys- what they had turned loose.” sey Through Events That Shaped the Modern Minor wrote for The Times-Picayune South.” He wanted to ask Rea Hederman from 1947 until the 1970s when he began edhow he revolutionized The Clarion-Ledger. iting and publishing The Capital Reporter, an “But the subject seemed awkward because any alternative newspaper in Jackson competing praise of Rea’s work implied disapproval of his with The Clarion-Ledger. His focus shifted father, Bob Hederman, and other members of more toward investigative reporting. the family,” Wilkie wrote. Hodding Carter III, who was assistant Bill Minor, political columnist and long- secretary of state for public affairs in Presitime Mississippi journalist, told PBS NewHour dent Jimmy Carter’s administration and now in 2002 about the evolution of The Clarion- teaches journalism at the University of North Ledger from a mouthpiece of a racist system to Carolina, said he would come home to Missisa respectable news outlet. Minor credited Rea sippi during the late 1970s, read The ClarionHederman. While the paper’s editorial policy Ledger, and its quality journalism knocked
him out. Carter saw Rea Hederman as the wayward son returned home to repudiate the entire family record. Carter told the JFP that the Hederman family couldn’t stand the coverage of all the wrongs the paper had either ignored or supported for the two previous generations. He said the family jerked the paper away from the golden boy, then sold its cash cow for a big payday—selling both dailies to Gannett, as well as the Hederman-owned Hattiesburg American, in 1982. Rea Hederman moved north, bought The New York Review of Books in 1984 and became publisher of that prestigious periodical, a position he still holds today. Bill Minor says it’s more complicated, though. Rea Hederman, who was then married, had an affair with a style editor and photographer at the paper, whom he later married. This upset the Hederman family. “The Hedermans were pious, amenpewed Baptists,” Minor told the JFP. They couldn’t deal with the shame of a divorce. Minor said that’s ultimately why Rea Hederman left town with his share of the Gannett sale and bought The New York Review of Books. Carter doubts it was that simple—he suggests the family ran him off because of his hard, honest look at Mississippi. “The story of the Hederman family and The Clarion-Ledger newspaper should have been written by Faulkner,” Kathy Lally wrote in 1997 in The Baltimore Sun. “It is a tale of a man burdened by ancestry. Familial loyalty and duty are stained by revulsion toward the past. The corrosive effects of racism are deeply felt, the scent of decay is strong.” Lally’s article says after Rea Hederman told his family in 1981 that he was getting a divorce, the family couldn’t work together anymore. Bill Minor told the JFP that there wasn’t another young Hederman poised to run the newspaper. The family sold out to Gannett. In 1982, the year USA Today began, Gannett bought the Hedermans’ regional publishing company in Mississippi for $110 million. One evening earlier this month, a New York Review of Books staff member put a JFP phone call through to Rea Hederman. He was CLARION-LEDGER, see page 18
When Gov. Ross Barnett took a public stand in 1962 against James Meredith, the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi, The Clarion-Ledger called the governor “courageous” and ran front-page editorials heralding him. The paper editorialized against the newly passed Civil Rights Act of 1964, warning it would hurt business and cause a spike in crime. The same year, the Jackson Daily News referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as “the Reverend Dr. Extremist Agitator Martin Luther King junior.” Daily News editor Jimmy Ward often wrote against desegregating schools. “As the event came to pass, this city becomes a little bit pregnant with integration but the condition came about not voluntarily but with Federalized rape,” he wrote in 1964. One of The Clarion-Ledger’s most famous headlines announced that authorities had arrested Byron de la Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers. Beckwith, a 43-yearold Greenwood resident at the time and a Citizens’ Council member, was born in California and lived there until he was 5; The ClarionLedger’s headline was “Californian Is Charged With Evers Murder.” Dudley Lehew, an Associated Press reporter who wrote the story, was shocked when he saw the headline the next morning. “My God, I didn’t even know (Beckwith) was from California,” Lehew said in a phone interview from his home in Denham Springs, La. He’s retired now, but from 1962 to 1964, Lehew worked for the AP as a Jackson-based reporter. He sai that, in those days, the two papers relied on AP to cover civil-rights news, so their staffs didn’t have to get involved. “It was a strange situation,” he said. “The best-kept secret in Jackson was that the Jackson Daily News also had an editor who would stay late and put a Negro News page together,” Lehew said without identifying the editor. A skeleton crew would quietly print the special section delivered only to African Americans and kept away from white eyes. It was done to generate advertising revenue.
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Service, one of the highest honors any U.S. paper could nab. Overby, 65, grew up in Jackson. When he was a boy, he delivered The Clarion-Ledger to homes. He wrote for the Jackson Daily News in the 1960s when he was in high school and in college. He studied journalism at Ole Miss, where a $5 million grant from the Freedom Forum created the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics in 2007. After he left Ole Miss in 1968, Overby went to Washington to work for Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi. Later, he was Washington correspondent for the Nashville Banner. When Gannett bought the Nashville Banner, Overby met Gannett owner Al Neuharth. By 1989, Overby became president and CEO of the Gannett Foundation, later called the Freedom Forum. In 1991, Overby became chairman of the Freedom Forum. He still holds these titles today as well as CEO of the Newseum, Gannett’s interactive news museum that opened in 2008 in Washington, D.C. The highlight of Overby’s career, though, was winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and popping that cork. If it’s the only thing ever mentioned in his obituary, he’d be pleased, he told the JFP. It wasn’t just a high point in his career, it was The Clarion-Ledger’s best moment. After decades of racist action and inaction, the newspaper had climbed to a moral high ground and journalistic excellence.
Reporter Dudley Lehew was shocked to read the headline on his own story.
still at the office working on his latest issue and wasn’t expecting a request to talk about the paper he remade all those years ago. He sighed heavily. “I haven’t talked about The Clarion-Ledger in years,” he said. He needed to think about what he might say. He hasn’t called back.
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The High Point Almost every reporter and editor watched Charles Overby carry a case of Champagne into the newsroom. It was Monday, April 18, 1983, the day the Pulitzer Prize committee was set to announce winners. Overby, the executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger at the time, knew its nominated series on education reform had a shot at winning the biggest award in print journalism. It was still early in the day. “Do you know?” a reporter asked him. “I don’t know,” Overby said. “I just know it deserves to win.” “Will we drink it if we don’t win?” “We’ll have to wait,” Overby told them. They didn’t have to wait too long. At 18 2:30 p.m., Overby popped the cork on the
first bottle to celebrate the win. The party in the newsroom continued all the way into the night and traveled to George Street Grocery. “It was great,” Overby told the JFP. “But what was important was that education reform passed. We didn’t have any idea about entering (the Pulitzer competition) when we started.” Gannett Co. Inc. had bought The Clarion-Ledger in April 1982, just one year earlier, and made Overby its editor. The news staff, many recruited under Rea Hederman, continued coverage supporting then-Gov. William Winter’s push to lift Mississippi’s public education system out of its separate-but-unequal status—which the paper itself had helped keep in place not so many years before. The paper reported what Overby calls the “shenanigans” of the Legislature in its special session in December 1982, when members opposing kindergarten and other basics, such as required science classes in high school. Overby wrote an editorial placing, by name, specific legislators in the “Hall of Shame.” The series of stories and editorials won The Clarion-Ledger the 1983 Pulitzer for Public
‘We Had So Much Fun’ In 1976, Hood returned to Jackson to work at The Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Daily News. He was sports editor of the Jackson Daily News from 1978 to 1983. “In sports, we had so much fun. We would come in (the newsroom) our days off just to hang around,” Hood said. “Writing 800 words on deadline at a night football game … in 30 minutes—there’s nothing like it.” The peak of the golden period was 1983, the year the Pulitzer came to Jackson. During those heady days, Hood attended a national Associated Press gathering. The Washington Post sports editor acknowledged that other newspapers did a better job than his, referring to St. Petersburg, Fla., and Jackson, Miss., as two cities with top-notch daily newspapers. In 1983, The Natchez Democrat wanted a guest columnist to write about the city’s annual pilgrimage events. They asked for Hood. Charles Overby, editor at the time, thought writing a column was a great idea for Hood. “It won awards,” Hood said. After that, he started writing a regular column “Charles didn’t have to ask permission (to make me a columnist),” Hood said. Hood’s column was positive, human and folksy. He wrote about everyday heroes, people who overcame the odds and the little triumphs that made his fans smile. He often wrote about his family with humor and sentiment. When his Aunt Kitty died, he wrote a column in 2008 about going to the funeral and expecting to see a coffin. “Aunt Kitty had gone and gotten herself cremated,” he wrote.
The Era of Big Brother Frank Gannett and partners bought the Elmira Gazette, a New York newspaper, in 1906. He started buying up local papers and merging them to increase advertising revenue. By 1923, he bought out his partners and founded Gannett Co. Inc. His new company started looking regionally for more newspapers to acquire in the northeast. Gannett died in 1957, but the company thrived. It started its own wire service, Gannett News Service. It started a new statewide paper in Florida in 1966 with no pretense of covering local news. Florida Today was the prototype for USA Today, which launched in 1982, with its short, punchy, often superficial news coverage. Gannett Co. Inc. went public in 1967 with investors expecting big profits. In the 1970s, Gannett took a bold step forward as a corporation. The New York-based publishing company pushed to become a national media conglomerate by buying up other regional publishing companies. It increased its number of television stations, too. Its next big thing was starting USA Today in 1982, a national newspaper with lots of color, graphics and shorter news items. Critics called it “McNews.” But many of those same news outlets began copying the use of graphics and short tidbits in a pre-Twitter universe. USA Today didn’t make an annual profit in its first 10 years. Gannett continued to invest in it, inflating its circulation numbers by giving away the newspaper at hotels, counting each room as a subscriber, a criticism the company has faced over the years and most recently reported in Forbes. It got lots of big advertising deals and did post some profitable quarters, but it was the 86 regional newspapers that carried the financial load. In 1982, the bold, brash media company bought The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson Daily News and The Hattiesburg American. (The Daily News merged completely with The Clarion-Ledger and ceased printing in 1989.) Gannett implemented policies that encouraged women and minorities to take management positions in the newsroom and in all aspects of the publishing business. “Those were Gannett’s goals, but those goals were more universally shared. We had an egalitarian staff under Rea Hederman,” Hood recalls. Rea Hederman not only brought in talented journalists from good schools—he wanted a diverse staff. The trend in journalism schools postWatergate and 1960s race strife was teaching diversity in coverage and hiring as a best practice in the newspaper industry. After Gannett bought The Clarion-Ledger, the staff was upbeat at first. “For a year or two, they were still great. Some good things happened. Salaries went up,” Hood said. “Then every year, we’d lose a person here and there.” Those people weren’t replaced. Gannett Co., now based in Tyson’s Corner, Va., became a public company in 1967. Its mission is, first and foremost, is to keep stock prices high. Employees are an expense that can get in the way of high profit margins.
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Sometime in the 1980s, after Gannett bought The Clarion-Ledger, motivational posters went up around the building. Hood remembers one labeled “Creativity.” He and others who worked at The Clarion-Ledger and The Hattiesburg American at the time describe the numerous posters as “creepy” in a Big-Brother-is-watching-you kind of way. In the 1990s, Gannett went after larger acquisitions, such as South Carolina-based Multimedia Inc., which came with cable TV subscribers. Although Gannett would sell Multimedia by 1999, the corporation continued other aggressive acquisitions including NewsQuest in the United Kingdom. Gannett now had an international empire. Then, the Fall Hood, who admires many people who still work at The Clarion-Ledger, doesn’t think the Gannett newspaper is great any more. “It hasn’t been for a long time,” Hood said. “It wasn’t that long ago The Clarion-Ledger controlled more than 50 percent of advertising in the whole area—that’s including TV and radio. It wasn’t that long ago you could buy The Clarion-Ledger in 79 out of 82 counties.” He thinks it started going downhill about 1990, soon after Gannett closed the Daily News, when the focus on good daily journalism started to wane. “A critical factor—even more than cutting positions—is this: Corporate sent a lot of people here who were inept. They sent publishers who didn’t understand the newsroom. One time, we had a publisher submit a budget to corporate that was so thin, they sent it back because the budget didn’t leave room to actually print the paper.” Over the years—especially since the early 1990s—Gannett sent publishers and editors to Jackson who seemed to give scant thought to the quality of the product, Hood said. Since 2003, The Clarion-Ledger has had five publishers. “This happened at a lot of levels for a
lot of years,” he said. “You got a lot of people running newspapers who aren’t newspaper people. We had a managing editor one time who told me he had never read a book in his entire life. And Gannett sent this guy here.” He didn’t name the editor who had never read a book. “There are economic forces, obviously. This is not a good time for newspapers. But bad decisions by Gannett exacerbated (the present situation),” he said. Examples Hood gives include promoting the wrong people and then not nurturing or training those same people to do their jobs well. After daily planning meetings where editors discussed the status of stories going to press, Hood would walk out and just stare at a friend who had sat through the same session. “I don’t know what’s going in the paper,” he would say. Neither did the other guy. Hood found himself in meetings that didn’t have anything to do with stories going in the newspaper. Gannett had different national efforts and committees that changed all the time, sometimes contradicting each other. One effort Hood recalls well is Advance. Advance was an early 1990s promotion Gannett execs thought up to sell advertising. These special sections to the paper—heavy with ads—would require everyone’s hard work, including the editorial staff. Hood headed the committee on medicine. “I was supposed to come up with ideas of increasing our revenue with medicine,” he said. This was despite the fact that Gannett newsrooms supposedly follow the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics policy that calls for news and features not to be disguised as advertising, stories not to be given away because someone advertises and for news staff to remain uninvolved in pursuing revenue. In the journalism business, it’s called “the CLARION-LEDGER, see page 20
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Orley Hood wrote a popular column for The Clarion-Ledger until he was laid off in 2008.
slapped in the required quotes. Sometimes they had relevance and context. Other times, they came off as disjointed comments—an empty effort to be diverse. Also in the 1990s, Gannett rolled out News 2000. The idea was to help newspapers prepare for the technological changes everyone knew were coming someday, although no one knew exactly what those changes USA Today in Arlington,Va., is the flagship publication of Gannett. Many people refer to it as “McNews.” were. Part of the program was a formula of eight items. Reporters wall between church and state”—the pubwrote stories as if they were factory lisher runs the advertising side, and the editor orders. Editors required reporters to identify oversees editorial independent of advertising each of the eight elements in each story. The influence. Ads and purchased “advertorial” paperwork could sometimes take longer than should always be clearly separate from edito- writing the story. rial in order to earn public trust. Hood remembers that when a corporate Still, Hood worked hard at the project, executive visited The Clarion-Ledger a few compiling data and making pie charts. He years ago to talk about the company’s initialearned odd tidbits like University of Missis- tives and future plans, one of the reporters sippi Medical Center had the largest laundry challenged him. “The next week, they tried to in the state and the fifth largest police force. get him fired,” Hood said. He talked to cardiologists and took notes. He Another time, a few guys from the news and his committee met on Saturday mornings department were in the break room when the in each others’ houses, essentially on their own managing editor came in to get a cup of coftime. They turned their report in on time. fee. One of them started talking to him about The executives above Hood started a sep- operation changes and rumors. The managing arate section, but it showed little resemblance editor didn’t say a word but started beating a to what the committee suggested. “It wasn’t a vending machine in response. real editorial product,” Hood said. The contacts he had in the medical field, such as the The Empire Strikes Back public relations directors at area hospitals, told Gannett is known for trying out unfair him they were not impressed. “We’ll advertise practices to eliminate competition. For one, in anything serious,” they told him. the company has drawn criticism for allowing “They weren’t interested in the weak, salespeople to undercut small, local publicaadvertorial separate section,” Hood said. “It tions by constantly offering lower ad rates—a lasted about a year and went away.” controversial practice in the advertising busiThe company had gotten so big, Hood ness that violates antitrust laws in some states. said, it was improbable for people at corporate The mammoth company could absorb this headquarters to make responsible decisions. expense in efforts to eliminate competition. Managers and executives constantly demandIn his 1996 book “The Chain Gang,” ed to know why the newspaper didn’t have Richard McCord recounts his experiences certain kinds of stories. When the workers with Gannett aggressively targeting small comexplained the limitations of deadlines, budgets munity publications for elimination. He cites and realities of only 24 hours in each day, it unfair practices at a Gannett daily newspaper seemed to fall on deaf ears. If the subjects of in Salem, Ore., that essentially shut down a stories didn’t like what a reporter wrote, they local publication. McCord found court testicalled the publisher to gripe, instead of the mony from advertisers who said Gannett repeditor. Enterprise journalism suffered from resentatives threatened to not do business with the fear of potentially upsetting advertisers and them unless they exclusively advertised with prominent readers. the Gannett paper. “If someone complained, you had to McCord also details similar schemes in march down to the publisher’s office or the New Mexico and Wisconsin where Gannett editor’s office,” Hood said. “We wanted to ask, made secret deals with advertisers and circula‘Are you ever going to stand up for us?’” tion departments wrote fraudulent reports and Starting in the early 1990s, Gannett in- told staffers the competition would be gone in troduced policies on how editors and reporters 12 months, McCord reported. should write the news. Some of it was sound One of many examples McCord refers to advice with good ideas. An example was is Hartford (Conn.) Times managers creating “mainstreaming” stories, which meant includ- a fake firm in 1971 to conduct marketing suring a person of color in every story possible. veys. The Times would pay the fake company “That was a good thing. It was a good $142,000 for its “services” never performed, idea, but often poorly executed,” Hood said. then later reclassify the money as payments for Inexperienced reporters would call a minority subscriptions. Doing that increased the circusource and tack one quote at the end of a story, lation of the Times from 105,000 readers to even if it was weak, to make sure they met a 113,000 readers. The paper then used the inquota. Reporters had to track how many sto- flated circulation to sell more advertising and ries they mainstreamed, how many minority undercut the competition. contacts they made and how many times they A judge found Gannett guilty of fraud,
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but only ordered $1 million in restitution, although the Hartford Times lost $17 million in Gannett’s campaign to destroy it. McCord includes in his book an excerpt from a 1988 article printed in the Mississippi Journal of Business. Rebecca Pittman wrote “The Gannettization of the Daily Press in Mississippi (Or How a Parent Company Milks a ‘Local Cash Cow’).” Pittman described the executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger, John Johnson, going on a radio show at WJNT and getting bombarded with complaints about the paper. Pittman listed her own complaints with the Gannett paper, including less actual news, fewer pages and a growing resemblance to USA Today, Gannett’s flagship newspaper. Despite the limited space for news, Pittman marveled at the space allowed for animal stories. “In the past year, Jackson readers have been served up page-one pieces on such matters as deer residing at the city pound, an Ocean Springs couple who annoyed neighbors by keeping ducks, and a four-legged chicken in Pearl,” Pittman wrote. She said The Clarion-Ledger and the Jackson Daily News had a reputation for raking in the advertising dollars ever since the Hederman days, making it a cash cow for Gannett. Pittman, who now works as an investigator with the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, noted the contrast from Rea Hederman’s newspaper and The ClarionLedger under Gannett since 1983. “Look at a front page from 1980. It looks like The New York Times,” she told the Jackson Free Press. “The newshole, the type of coverage, the investigative stories—it was incredible.” She said she doesn’t read The ClarionLedger anymore and doesn’t know who does.
stairs office that Wednesday morning. About 9 a.m., the phone rang. The office manager, who worked for Executive Editor Ronnie Agnew, was calling. “Ronnie wants you to come in as soon as possible,” she said. Hood knew immediately what was happening. “I’m gone, huh?” he said. “I’ve got to finish this column first.” He hung up and finished the column for Sunday’s paper, sent it in as he said he would and then got ready to drive to the paper. In his car on the way to the office, he got another call from the office manager. “Ronnie wants you in here right now,” she said. When Hood got to the newsroom, he went to Agnew’s office, but the editor was walking out. “I’ve got to get coffee first,” Hood said Agnew told him. Hood stood outside the door with all the eyes of the newsroom on him. Everyone knew. He waited for Agnew to return. “I was standing there like a bump on a log,” he said. “It pissed me off.” When Agnew came back, they went over the paperwork, had a witness present and talked about final paychecks. Agnew even gave Hood a reason for the layoff. “I was told I made too much money,” Hood said. “Hey, have I ever asked you for a raise?” he said he responded. The conversation fell flat, and the paperwork was done. Hood’s 32-year career at The Clarion-Ledger was over. Archie Manning called Hood at home the next day. “What happened?” the famed quarterback asked. “They said I made too much money,” Hood said. There was a long pause. “No, really, what was the real reason?” Manning insisted. Hood said he’s more upset that other journalists were laid off then and at other times. “They were far better newspaper people than those guys laying them off,” he said. “Sure, I’m bitter. I’m still bitter. I gave the best of my professional life to The Clarion-Ledger.” His friends in advertising told him that, after he left, businesses dropped ads and readers stopped subscriptions. He heard something similar happened when editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey’s position was slashed to part-time status. “I hate what happened to people who got laid off. They laid off some real quality people. It’s not just salaries. It’s no way to run a railroad.”
‘Look at a front page from 1980. It looks like The New York Times.’ – Rebecca Pittman
Falling Apart Although Gannett has laid off thousands of employees in recent years, the business itself is not failing. Historically, Gannett has maintained double-digit profit margins. In 2008, CLARION-LEDGER, see page 22
Just Another FTE Gannett and other corporate media companies have pushed the bottom line over community journalism, even when the companies are profitable and could afford journalistic investment. Because they’re traded publicly, though, higher profit margins mean higher stock value. In recent years, that’s meant laying off full-time journalists in newsrooms as well as other full-time employees. Gannett managers call them “full-time equivalents,” or FTEs. “FTEs—(the managers) used to talk about them like they are brooms in the closet, like they are all the same,” Hood said. Even though he had won awards and had a loyal readership, Hood was just another FTE. He was laid off in 2008 with 32 others a couple of weeks before Christmas. “I didn’t see it coming,” he said. “We had two new reporters in the newsroom who just moved to Jackson and were newlyweds. I was worried they would get laid off.” Hood was working at home in his up-
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from page 21
Gannett’s profit margin was 25 percent while and numbers from across the nation. other media companies, such as The New “Gannett Reporters Cover Their Own York Times, hovered under 10 percent. Still, Layoffs,” observed Poynter.org, the website despite its overall profits, Gannett newspapers of Florida-based Poynter Institute, a respected have suffered losses in subscriptions and ad- journalism think tank. vertisements just like other newspapers. The Clarion-Ledger has laid off at least The transition from cash cow to endan- 30 percent of its staff in the last several years, gered species happened, and that does not inin part, with the transiclude positions that tion from print to onweren’t filled after emline. People could post ployees resigned. But classified ads for free on even as Gannett laid services like Craigslist. off more staff, its exThey could find news ecutives continued to and alternatives to the cash in huge bonuses local daily within secfor making the stockonds. This new reality holders a profit. Ganslowly chipped away at nett paid its president, subscriptions and adCraig Dubrow, $9.4 vertising revenue, even million last year. as daily newspapers had The industry conmoved much of their tinues to suffer during focus away from the the present recession. in-depth and local jourTraditional newspaper nalism that help make companies didn’t do readers loyal. Although too well in the first newspapers had a pres- In 1996 Author Richard McCord half of 2011, The Wall detailed unfair practices Gannett ence online, they hadn’t employed to ruin competitors in “The Street Journal reported figured out in time how Chain Gang: One Newspaper Versus Aug. 21. Its analysis to make money being the Gannett Empire.” predicted more job there. cuts are coming, simiCorporate newslar to the huge layoffs papers have laid off thousands of journalists in publishing of two years ago. since 2007, leaving many newspapers, includSteadily, every year, The Clarion-Ledger ing The Clarion-Ledger, a shell of its former has lost staffers to layoffs and resignations, self. with a number showing up in local public-reSome historic publications ceased to ex- lations jobs, including for the governor. Ganist or became online-only news outlets. Gan- nett laid off 700 people this June—10 at The nett is focused on making its online presence Clarion-Ledger. dominant while letting the quality of its print The Wall Street Journal also reported products slip. Without experienced and pas- that at the end of last year, Gannett had about sionate writers and editors, websites tend 32,600 employees, down from 49,675 emto have short stories that are amended with ployees at the end of 2006. mostly uncensored and often vitriolic and racIt’s not just the work force that’s getting ist comments from anonymous posters. smaller. Circulation has dropped dramatically MomsLikeMe, a Gannett newspaper in recent years. site, paid people to post at many newspapers. In 1991, the paper enjoyed a 107,787 The Hattiesburg American in 2008 paid four statewide circulation; by 2001, it had dropped women who were not journalists $100 each a to 101,866; this year, the Audit Bureau of Cirmonth to post comments on its MomsLikeMe culation indicates 62,248 circulation, averagsite, pretending to be casual participants. ing daily and Sunday readership—a number This writer, who worked as an editor and that now includes the paper’s online readers as reporter at The Hattiesburg American from well due to a recent ABC rule change. 2007 to 2009, was told in late 2008 to interIn 2006, The Clarion-Ledger admitted act with the paid posters online and pretend to the city, during a controversy over legal noto have spontaneous online conversations. tices, that it had “about 22,000” circulation One of the ironies of the Gannett push inside the city limits of Jackson. for online news is that an independent online Gannett papers, including The Clarionblog reports on the corporation from several Ledger, also changed to a narrower cut of paangles and uses the crowdsourcing of thou- per and reduced the number of pages. Next to sands of former and current Gannett employ- employees, newsprint has been a huge expense ees, often anonymously. for newspapers that can fluctuate year to year. Jim Hopkins, a former business editor As the staff and the actual paper get thinner, for USA Today, started GannettBlog in 2007, not much is left to cut. after he took a buyout from the company. “It’s just a thin throwaway,” Bill Minor During early December 2008, when Gannett said. “They to have to fill it up with boilerlaid off more 3,000 employees—the same plate from USA Today.” time Orley Hood was laid off—thousands of “Gannettoids” relied on Hopkins’ blog to find CLARION-LEDGER, see page 24 out the truth by comparing memos, anecdotes COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI PRESS
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