Black Journalists Trade White Newsrooms for Black

May 26, 2011  |  

(Columbia Journalism Review) — It started as a trickle. Sylvester Monroe resigned in 2006 as Sunday national editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, two months later, joined the staff of Ebonymagazine. In 2008 the renowned byline of Jack E. White, the first black columnist at Time magazine, began to regularly appear on The Root, where Lynette Clemetson, formerly ofThe New York Times and Newsweek, was managing editor. By March of this year when Constance C. R. White, once an influential New York Times fashion writer, was named editor in chief of Essence, the trickle had swelled into a river of prominent African-American journalists streaming to black-oriented media.  The names of veterans like Lynette Holloway and E. R. Shipp, formerly of The New York Times; Teresa Wiltz, Natalie Hopkinson, and Michael Cottman, all of The Washington Post; Joel Dreyfuss, formerly of Fortune and PC Magazine, and Amy DuBois Barnett ofHarper’s Bazaar and Teen People, are turning up in places like Ebony, Jet, and Essence; at BlackAmericaWeb.com, a division of Reach Media, Inc.; and at The Root, the online site spearheaded by Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. and published by The Washington Post Company.  Some of these moves were prompted by layoffs and buyouts; others by disillusionment with mainstream journalism or a desire to delve more deeply into African-American issues. Whatever the reasons, with increasing frequency, African-American journalists are reversing the once common trajectory from the black press to the mainstream. New ventures like HuffPost Global Black, a vertical for Arianna Huffington’s widely read website that will be launched in partnership with Sheila Johnson, cofounder of Black Entertainment Television, are likely to quicken the pace.

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