Editor Out Just Before Debut Of N.Y. Times Co.’s ‘Black’ Paper

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Just two days before the Gainesville Guardian launches in the Florida city’s black neighborhoods, African-American press veteran Charlotte Roy is no longer the editor of The New York Times Co.-owned weekly that has stirred controversy among black newspaper publishers.

Though the Times Co. and The Gainesville Sun, the daily that is publishing the paper, have repeatedly insisted the Guardian is a community paper that just happens to be targeted at heavily African-American neighborhoods, black-owned papers have viewed the upcoming launch as the first foray of mainstream newspaper chains into black papers — much as they have done by creating Spanish-language papers.

Reached by phone at her home Tuesday morning, Roy declined to comment, but expressed shock that the news was out of her departure.

Asked on a second call if it were true that she was no longer the editor, she said, “Yes, apparently I am no longer.” Was that a surprise to you, she was asked. “I really can’t talk about it, I’m sorry,” she said.

Roy’s exit from the paper just before its Aug. 25 debut was broken Tuesday morning by Richard Prince on his online “Journal-isms” column on the Maynard Institute’s Web site.

Prince reported that a spokesperson for the Times Co. had confirmed that Roy was no longer editor, and added that a new editor had not yet been named.

It was Roy who perhaps inadvertently launched the controversy over the idea of a Times-owned “black” paper when, earlier this summer, she placed a notice with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), seeking a general assignment reporter for the “Gainesville Guardian, the first New York Times-owned black newspaper.”

Roy, a founding NABJ member, has extensive experience in both mainstream and the black press, working in editorial positions, including the Detroit Free Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She served as a managing editor at the black-oriented Atlanta Daily World.

In a story in E&P’s August print issue, James E. Doughton, publisher of the daily Gainesville Sun, said the paper would be no different from the general-interest community weeklies that other Times Co. dailies have launched successfully in the nearby Lakeland and Ocala markets.

“It was based, frankly, on the success of those products that we began to look at what we could do in Gainesville,” he said.

The paper was looking for areas that were “perhaps underserved,” he added, noting the east Gainesville, the heavily African-American area where the Guardian will be distributed, was the part of the city where the daily had the least penetration.

The free-distribution Guardian will have a press run of 10,000, the Sun said.

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