Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tony Ridder Defends Record on Diversity

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Tony Ridder Defends Record on Diversity

Article excerpt

Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder says it's a personal affront for anyone to point an accusing finger at his chain's diversity efforts. In an effort to make that point, he pushes back several meetings and conference calls on a December day for a lengthy series of telephone interviews to answer questions. He also challenges assertions that Lorraine Branham's ouster as executive editor at the Tallahassee Democrat was based on her quest to diversify the news pages or its news staff.

"The reason it didn't work out for her had nothing to do with diversity," Ridder insists. "It had to do with other issues related to her job and how she was carrying out her job."

Ridder says he has a hand in ensuring that minorities are considered for major jobs when vacancies occur. He frequently asks if minority candidates are being considered for a position and questions why a minority didn't get it. But he says he didn't know that Branham, the chain's only female African-American executive editor, was about to exit "until right at the time she was leaving. I was not involved in those discussions."

He wants to keep her in Knight Ridder, but isn't sure that will happen. Jobs have been offered, but "she has always said she is not interested," Ridder says.

Moreover, he says, he's "hoping that the [new] managing editor in Tallahassee is a minority." (Mizell Stewart III, an African American, was appointed to the position in late December.)

Clearly, there's the hint that the recent events in Tallahassee touch a gray area of race and gender vs. individual performance. And for black journalists to suggest that the chain is turning its back on diversity is a "reckless charge," Ridder argues. Maybe a few years back, he says, someone could have made a claim against Knight Ridder with a semblance of credibility. But not now, he adds, not since he took over. …

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