By: Joe Nicholson
Former Tallahassee Democrat Editor Resurfaces
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by Joe Nicholson
Lorraine Branham, ousted last year as the nation’s only
African-American woman editor of a daily with a 50,000-plus
circulation, has landed a new job.
Branham’s forced resignation as executive editor of Knight Ridder’s
Tallahassee Democrat last October prompted some to raise questions
about subtle forms of sexism and racism. It provoked controversy
in the nation’s newsrooms and was the subject of a major E&P cover
As of Sept. 18, Branham will be assistant to the publisher of the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She will work on special projects involving
business, editorial, and media operations at the Post-Gazette and
Toledo’s The Blade.
Branham, 46, a highly regarded former editor with The Philadelphia
Inquirer and Baltimore’s The Sun, said she probably will never know
whether race and sex were factors when a new Democrat publisher, a
white male, replaced her with another editor, also a white male,
from another Knight Ridder paper.
The Democrat story announcing Branham’s departure mentioned a
circulation decline, but did not explain that it was a continuation
of a slide that began about six years before Branham’s four-year
tenure. At the time of her departure, Branham’s Democrat work was
praised by Marty Claus, Knight Ridder vice president for news: ‘We
are hoping she stays in the company … because she is a very good
Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder defended Branham’s ouster as based on performance, saying it ‘had nothing to do with diversity.’
‘I was not going to be bitter,’ said Branham, who praised Knight
Ridder for letting her edit a paper. However, she said, ‘A lot of
people were horrified,’ describing reactions she got last month at
the National Association of Black Journalists convention.
A top female or minority editor faces additional hurdles, she said.
‘You are going to face greater scrutiny, and certainly there are
always going to be people who look at the decisions that you make
in a racial context, but at the same time I tell young women all
the time that you cannot allow those things to keep you from setting
high goals for yourself and trying to keep them,’ said Branham.
Pamela Newkirk, an associate journalism professor at New York
University and author of a new book on black journalists, said she
warns female and minority students: ‘Your mistakes will stand out.
Your judgment will be questioned. … It is unfair.’
Newkirk, an African-American ex-reporter at three newspapers and
author of ‘Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media,’ said
unfairness also exists outside newspapers: ‘The toughest job I have
as a parent is preparing my children for racial barriers or attitudes
they will confront.’
Joe Nicholson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate
editor for E&P.
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