By: Allan Wolper The (N.Y.) Daily News
Rep. Charles Rangel, a confidant of President Clinton and one of the country's most influential African American politicians, is tired of being targeted by the New York Daily News editorial page.
"I have never known anyone who was black who worked for the Daily News," to two writers on the other end of a conference phone call.
The response was quick. "You're talking to one," replies Jonathan Capehart, a 31-year-old Newark, N.J., native, recalling the moment with sadness and
Rangel apologized immediately, but it was too late. Another race card had been dealt in the racially explosive debate between the Daily News and the Apollo Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs the historic Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
That is how the congressman usually does it," Capehart says without menace. "They always play the race card, and people would back down."
Capehart and his cohort, Michael Aronson, a 35-year-old white journalist, didn't back down, and last week, they won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the alleged mismanagement of the Apollo.
The Daily News editorials that started last April 26 and ran all through the year focused on Rangel, who is chair of the Apollo nonprofit foundation, and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, the first African American to run for mayor of New York.
Capehart and Aronson, employing old- fashioned journalistic legwork, discovered Sutton's syndicated television program, Showtime At The Apollo, was not paying 25% of its revenue to the theater as its contract mandated.
"This wasn't about black and white," says Aronson, a former political campaign operative. "It was about green. It was about money the Apollo should have been getting."
The two correspondents were vilified on WLIB-FM, the radio station owned by Sutton's Inner City Broadcasting Corp., and The Amsterdam News, perhaps the country's most influential black weekly newspaper.
Aronson says the Pulitzer Board, which meets at 116th Street and Broadway, less than a half mile from the Apollo, could have discovered pretty much what he and Capehart found.
"The carpet was ripped, it was a rat trap," Aronson says. "If the Apollo had gotten the money it was supposed to then we never would have written anything."
Gov. George Pataki, meanwhile, announced last month that his administration will take over the landmark building, which is owned by the state, unless Rangel produces an internal audit taken by KPMG Peat Marwick.
Capehart and Aronson say their reportage - picked up by all of the city's media - is a reflection of a policy that was implemented by Michael Goodwin, editorial page editor.
"He told us to develop our own stories," says Capehart. "In fact, he insists on it."
Finalists were Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post for his editorials urging America's continued commitment to human rights and Lawrence C. Levy
of Long Island, N.Y., Newsday for his campaign bringing about reform of Long Island's property assessment system.

The New York Daily News Editorial Board took top honors with its editorial series to save Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater (left).
The editorial team is comprised of (left to right) Brian kates, Alex Storozynski, Karen Hunter, Michael Goodwin, Karen Zautyk, Jonathan Capehart and Michael Aronson.

Daily News L.P.Photo

?(Editor & Publisher Web Site:http:www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 17, 1999) [Caption & Photo]


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