There has been a public outcry, and the managing editor was fired only 24 hours before the presses began an inaugural run. Nevertheless, the New York Times has a new presence in Florida today, the Gainesville Guardian, a weekly paper targeted to about 15,000 local black residents.
It joins 18 other newspapers in the Times’ burgeoning stable, and was described yesterday by publisher Jim Doughton as “a community publication designed to serve both east Gainesville and the African-American community.”
The new publication, however, has had a rocky start. For weeks, the paper has irked critics who were convinced the Times simply was looking for revenue from the black community.
Howard University journalism professor Clint C. Wilson called it a “white newspaper in blackface,” noting in a commentary for the black-owned, 100-year-old Chicago Defender newspaper that the Times had “turned to people of color for their economic salvation.”
The Boston-based Bay State Banner, another black paper, called Times management “journalistic carpetbaggers,” adding, “only the black press can be entrusted” to address subjects of importance to black readers.
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) categorized the Guardian as a “‘black’” newspaper, while Forbes magazine waggishly noted, “The Gray Lady goes black.”
On Monday, the Times fired the Guardian’s initial editor, Charlotte Roy, who was a founder of the 3,500-member, Maryland-based NABJ in 1975 and is former managing editor of the Atlanta Daily World and a former writer for the Detroit Free Press.
She had described herself as “the luckiest person in the world” after her appointment, according to Richard Prince of the Oakland, Calif.-based Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Miss Roy would not speculate about her dismissal.
Doris Chandler — who is black — and Rob Oglesby — who is white — were named interim co-editors yesterday, according to the Gainesville Sun, a sister publication of the new weekly and also a New York Times property.
Both are Sun veterans; Mrs. Chandler is currently business editor and Mr. Oglesby, a former managing editor, came out of retirement for the position.
“We wish Charlotte well,” publisher Mr. Doughton said. “We are very grateful and appreciative of all her good work in getting the first issue out.” A search is now under way for a permanent editor.
Some believe Miss Roy inadvertently set the stage for controversy after she placed an employment notice with the NABJ for a reporter for “the Gainesville Guardian, the first New York Times-owned black newspaper.”
The Times did not see it that way, initially insisting the Guardian was simply a “community paper” meant for “underserved” neighborhoods.
But Miss Roy recently told Forbes: “There was a void in the Gainesville community. There was not a paper that was focusing on the African-American population. This paper is filling that void.”