Saturday, October 5, 2013

Seasoned journalists increasingly move into academia


Leave it to fellow journalist and venerable recruiter Reggie Stewart to pick up on the trend that some universities are hiring seasoned media professionals to lead their journalism and mass communications departments -- Dorothy Bland, DeWayne Wickham and yours truly among them.

Stewart's article appears in Black Issues in Higher Education. Here is the link:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One company is backing Paula Deen

Much has been written and said, including in this blog, about the embattled Paula Deen, who admitted in a deposition that she has used a derogatory racial slur.

Now comes word that a company that manufactures furniture is sticking by Savannah's food diva with a furniture line in her name. Here is the report from the High Point Enterprise.

Furniture company sticking with Paula Deen

Monday, July 22, 2013

A dean of newspaper editors is departing the newsroom

It isn't often that I call someone the dean of some industry or group of people. The word doesn't always fit. But I have to say that upon hearing about the retirement of Bennie Ivory, executive editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Bennie Ivory is the dean of the club of people who are or have been executive editors of daily  newspapers, especially Gannett newspapers.

Bennie is leaving -- Friday. Yes, that's quick, this coming from a woman whose own retirement from a Gannett newspaper, went on probably a bit too long. I was trying to be kind by giving my bosses time to recruit a successor. Too long, I now know.

Bennie is a dean of our industry. He served long and well as a leader at several newspapers, including Florida Today, the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal and in Louisville. I met him in 1986, right after I arrived at  USA Today, my first Gannett newspaper. Bennie was on the way out to some great adventure to lead a newsroom as managing editor. I was just starting my first top management role as a deputy managing editor at USA Today.

Here is the story/video about Bennie's departure:

Here's what I remember about Bennie Ivory:
  • He was an early champion for newsroom diversity, one of the early ones who spoke up when he saw something inaccurate with the portrayal of people of color in content of newspapers, or to make sure people of color were represented in newsrooms.
  • He wears black -- every day. I never asked him why but if I had to guess, knowing Bennie, it was a matter of convenience. Never had to think about attire, what matches and what doesn't match.
  • He has a brilliant journalism mind, leading a newspaper that won almost all of the top awards in our business, including the Pulitzer Prize.
  • He is not always a happy camper. He complains. Curmudgeon comes to mind. That's Bennie.
  • He is from Arkansas and brother of Lee Ivory, one of my favorite people in the business,  himself an editor of great distinction.
  • He is gone from our business too quickly. To Bennie, retirement age is 62.
I expect we will keep hearing from black-wearing, thoughtful, talented Bennie Ivory. I expect he will continue to make Louisville his home. I expect he will get some rest for a time and then find a way to share his wisdom in a place where it matters.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Paula Deen: "Please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made"

No matter where I go, when I tell people my hometown is Savannah, Ga., one of the first things they ask me is if I have been to Paula Deen's Lady and Sons southern cuisine restaurant, or to her brother's Uncle Bubba's, a seafood eatery.

I always respond "Yes, but ... ," often adding "it's just fried chicken."

A friend called me the other night, just to check in. A former coworker, she wanted me to know that she had completed a series of classes as part of her sentence for a DUI offense some months ago. She was proud of the fact that she made it through the punishment and is now (she vows) reformed.

This kind of reformation and redemption reminds me of the years-ago mandatory diversity training that was rolled out across the media landscape of just about every newspaper and television station in the nation -- especially those owned by the big companies like Gannett, Knight Ridder, NPR, the New York Times newspapers and The Associated Press.

One media executive, the CEO of a major media company (not Gannett, the company where I worked for more than two decades) admitted to me once that when he formed a diversity committee to plan initiatives around overcoming certain biases in the workplace, he had to call in an expert to help the committee members understand why some of their own biases were preventing them from making progress in establishing diversity benchmarks and standards.

Now comes Paula Deen, the queen of the exaggerated southern drawl and comfort cooking. News this week that Dean and her brother were the subjects of a lawsuit alleging that she used the "N" word and other discriminatory practices knocked Deen off her culinary pedestal. The kitchen maven, who has become a cottage industry with cookbooks, food products and contracts with networks like the Food Network and QVC, immediately went into crisis management to defend herself against charges that she and family members might be racists. Rumors are flying, but the lawsuit's transcript is out there for all to see. She did not deny using the offensive word.

Friday morning, just as Matt Lauer was getting ready to interview her on the Today Show, Deen dropped back, saying through a spokesperson she was "exhausted." She later apologized to Lauer and to her fans.

"Please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made," Deen said in a Web video that went viral in seconds. But the fallout of her brand was already underway. The Food Network dropped her like one of her own delicious hot potatoes.

My advice? Just like the model of training for DUIs, political, sports and celebrity offenders who say and do things that are offensive as racist, anti-Semitic, gender-biased, homophobic and age inappropriate and just about anything else for which they stick their biased feet into their mouths, there ought to be a national center for bias reformation and  redemption. All celebs and public officials of a certain status would be required to go there for a month of total immersion in sensitivity training.

A leadership expert once told me that you may not be able to change attitudes but you can change behavior. If someone wants to set up this institute, call me. I'd be happy to help.

As for questions about the fare at the Lady and Sons restaurant, my personal observation includes  these three things:
  • Lines are too long and the Savannah sun is too hot to wait for hours to get in.
  • The food is decent but I've had better in Savannah.
  • I took a peep into the kitchen when the door was open with wait staff coming and going. Guess who was doing the cooking back there? African Americans, the very people Paula Deen offended with her use of the "N" word.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The next chapter: Going "home" to make a difference

When I retired in March from  Gannett and my role as executive editor at the Montgomery Advertiser, friends and colleagues said they would be waiting to hear about Wanda Lloyd"s "next chapter," so sure they were that I am not ready to settle down and completely rest in the near future. Even close  family members said something like "yeah, right," when I told them I was ready to retire.

Journalism and communications studies have been a lifelong pursuit for me. Ever since I was a high school student in Savannah, Ga., and later as a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, I have found opportunities to pursue my goal of becoming the top editor of newspapers. Now seven daily newspapers later and as a participant and leader in the transition from print to the digital revolution, I felt like I had done all I needed to do in newspaper newsrooms.

Even with a side step along the way as the founding executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University, and lecturing more times than I can count in university classrooms, it took me a while to realize that my ultimate career destiny might be on a university campus.

I am able to report that my career has come full circle -- literally.

I left Savannah the day after I graduated from high school. Now Savannah State University -- where I participated in numerous communications workshops as a student, and where I have been a keynote speaker twice at the Southern Regional Press Institute -- has called  for me to return home.

In July I will return to the campus as chair of the Department of Mass Communications, and dedicate the next few years working with the faculty to ensure that students are prepared for a 21st Century world of communications.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Kudos to Al Neuharth, who preached media diversity

Al Neuharth has passed away. He was 89.

Neuharth was a giant of a newsman. He was also a self-described SOB who wrote a book --  "Confessions of an S.O.B." -- to prove it.

Neuharth, who is known as the founder of USA TODAY and who wrote a column for that newspaper until the end of his life, was one of the reasons I went to work at USA TODAY and Gannett 27 years ago.

Whenever  Neuharth, also at the time Gannett's CEO, and a few other senior Gannett officials would give an interview or speak to industry leaders about any topic, he would always find a way to weave into his talk the value Gannett placed on having women and people of color hold positions on every level in the company. Neuharth's position spoke to the very core of my own belief, that staff diversity is a way to ensure that journalists report with accuracy.

He was the venerable example of someone who didn't just talk about diversity, but he made sure his company's managers were held accountable for diversity. For a long time, that  culture filtered down through the organization. And he took that culture with him when he later became chairman of the Freedom Forum, which asked me to become the founding executive director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in 2000.

Gannett's current CEO, Gracia Matore said this of Neuharth in a statement: "Al was many things -- a journalist, a leader, a serial entrepreneur, and a pioneer in advancing opportunities for women and minorities."

He was that and so much more.

Obituary of Al Neuharth:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

As editors: Oh, the places we have been and the stories we have been able to tell

Ronnie Agnew and Wanda Lloyd at Jackson State University's Media Day 2013

What happens when two former newspaper editors get together?

A lot of war stories are told.

That was the case this week when I traveled to Mississippi to be the keynote speaker for Mass Communications Day at Jackson State University. The highlight, of course, was the ability to spend time with the students and impart whatever knowledge and advice I could share in about 30 minutes.

But a personal highlight, for me was reconnecting with Ronnie Agnew, former executive editor of the Jackson Clarion Ledger. A member of the university's mass comm program's advisory board, Ronnie was there to introduce me.

Ronnie is now executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting. He was executive editor of the Jackson newspaper for nine years, and managing editor there before that. 

When we sat at the luncheon table and looked at the printed program and my bio on page two, I mentioned to Ronnie that I hoped he was not planning to read that entire bio. He said "I didn't even see that bio until I got here today. I won't use any of it."

When the time came, Ronnie made the best intro of me that I've ever had. It was personal, professional and warmly presented. One thing he shared was that he was present when I won two major awards for media diversity, awards presented with a decade between them. I had no memory that Ronnie was present for either of them -- the Ida G. Wells award or the Robert G. McGruder award.

Now that we've both left daily newspaper newsrooms, Ronnie and I had a great old time talking about some of the highlights and low lights of our days as editors -- two of very few African Americans who have held these positions. Who knows, we may need to collaborate someday and speak together. Younger generations of journalists need to understand what it takes to get to be a top editor, how to keep those jobs and how to make a difference in communities.

More about Ronnie Agnew: