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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   May 1998  issue


By Debra Puchalla
Debra Puchalla is AJR's associate editor and deputy editor of Martha Stewart Living.      

Coffey Talk

Months after his abrupt October departure from the top spot at the Los Angeles Times , Shelby Coffey III might be switching gears to broadcast. Sometime during the next several months, according to the New Yorker , ABC News President David Westin is likely to take the division's decision making reins from outgoing Chairman Roone Arledge , who will likely keep the title. Named as Arledge's successor more than a year ago, Westin might have Coffey, a veteran of the Washington Post who also briefly served as editor of U.S. News & World Report s as part of his team. "We are talking to him about a senior management role at ABC News," says the news division's sufficiently circumspect spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy , who declines to elaborate.

Diversity Deferred

Two decades after setting an industry goal of racial parity by the next millennium, the board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors might push back its deadline on diversity until 2010. ASNE's board has drafted a statement on newsroom diversity to be addressed officially in October. "To accurately and sensitively cover the community, newsroom staffs must reflect society as a whole," the draft says. According to ASNE's census done at the beginning of this year, minorities make up 11.46 percent of newsroom employees meanwhile, they comprise 26 percent of the U.S. population. ASNE plans to "encourage and assist all newspapers to employ minority journalists, to increase representation of journalists of color to 20 percent industrywide by 2010 and to achieve parity with local communities as soon as possible." ASNE Vice President Edward Seaton , editor in chief of the Manhattan Mercury in Kansas, says the new goals are broader and more inclusive than those of 1978. "The directors feel that the target for 2010 will be a definite stretch for the industry," he says. "But they believe it is attainable with persistent and aggressive effort on behalf of ASNE, other organizations and, most important, daily newspapers."

Big Man on Campus

Former Washington Post and Washington Star reporter, editor and columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Haynes Johnson has been appointed to the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of Maryland, filling the void left by Hodding Carter III , now president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Johnson, also a regular commentator on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and author or co-author of 13 books, will teach public affairs reporting, and will also serve as an AJR contributing editor.


With Campaign '98 just over summer's horizon, Post-Newsweek Stations Inc., the broadcast arm of the Washington Post Co., says its six local TV stations will give congressional and gubernatorial wannabes a chunk of free airtime. "Campaign '98: Straight Talk from the Candidates," a show composed of five-minute segments from the hopefuls, will air on Detroit's WDIV  Jacksonville's WJXT , Orlando's WKMG , Miami's WPLG , Houston's KPRC and San Antonio's KSAT .

Get Outta Town

National Public Radio 's Elizabeth Arnold says as national political correspondent during the '94 election season she mostly stayed inside the Beltway to cover the hoopla on health care and missed a revolution the Republican revolution, that is. "If I had been traveling more, paying attention to the ideas and issues, I might have picked up on it," she says. So for this year's campaign, the 38-year-old Arnold, who's covered the Hill for NPR since 1991, will be on the road and based in Seattle. In Washington, D.C., she says, "there was always a tension: Do I want to go to Missouri and cover a race there, or do I want to stay on the Hill and cover a bill?" The Beltway often won. "I'll be covering the races lower down on the totem pole," she says, for, say, the Illinois legislature or the Nevada governorship. "The idea is to get ahead of the polls and be the leading indicator yourself," she says. "And the states are where the action is."

Shedding Pundits

CBS News is two talking heads lighter, weekend-wise, as the network parts ways with rightie pundit Laura Ingraham and former Democratic Sen. Bill Bradley . As part of CBS President Andrew Heyward 's ongoing overhaul of the network's news division, the two were hired during the past year as commentators. "We came to the conclusion that with an emphasis on hard news we really didn't have the proper format in which to use them on the weekend eveningnews," says CBS spokeswoman Sandy Genelius . "It was a very interesting experiment." And though it's over, "I don't think there were any ill feelings on anybody's part." Their tenure cut short, however amicably, Bradley is left free to re-politicize himself; Ingraham, the hip lawyer of New York Times Magazine -cover-in-a-leopard-miniskirt fame, continues to contribute to MSNBC . So back at CBS, what's going to fill the time during which the two spun? Something somewhat less experimental, Genelius says: "News."


Congratulations, "Dateline NBC," on your story "The Ties That Bind." No, no the other "Ties That Bind" that "Dateline" aired. As a result of an error in processing Sigma Delta Chi Award judges' findings, the Society of Professional Journalists in late March mistakenly announced the wrong one of two entries with the same name from "Dateline NBC." "It is, no doubt, a terrible disappointment to the journalists who thought they had won," says SPJ President Fred Brown , political editor of the Denver Post . "And it is definitely an embarrassment to SPJ... We have instituted procedures to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in the future." The real "Dateline" winner, by Margaret Larson , Lynne Dale and Christy Crawford , detailed the story of a family's adoption of two abused and neglected children. In describing the work, contest judges said, "There were no heroes, and no one walked away unscathed not even the viewers."