To the Editor:
Regarding Tony Jones' article on the Tri-State Defender ("Last Defense?" May 16th issue): I am a professional, award-winning journalist with over 30 years' experience in print media. In addition to my formal education, some of my expertise has been garnered from some of the most brilliant minds in the business. This knowledge and expertise includes reporting and writing special features for daily and weekly newspapers around the country and incorporates stints as managing editor, associate editor for a national magazine, and almost 10 years as a copy editor for one of the leading daily newspapers in California. As a Christian who diligently tries to exhibit daily the fruits of God's spirit, I also proudly wear his honesty, integrity, and character, especially as a professional.
Thus I am giving an account of my conversation with Tony Jones sometime in late September or early October concerning the abrupt layoff from the Tri-State Defender of Judy Seals, former ad/marketing director; Kimberly Ware, former classified ad makeup/layout artist; and me, former managing editor. We first discussed the possible whys, with me concluding that management (Audrey McGhee, editor/publisher; and Tom Picou, the Defender's chief editor) did not like the fact that Kim and I questioned keeping Michael Vargas, then production manager, on the payroll even after his transfer to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was a move we felt would throw us back into all-night press nights, since a 20-page paper would be put together from three states, when what Vargas and Picou were doing from their respective states could have been done from Memphis.
In our conversation, I told Tony, in reference to the layoffs, that I didn't think that it would set well with the black community that McGhee laid off three black women (older company employees) to maintain Michael, a young white man, simply because we questioned her actions at a time when we were not being paid in a timely fashion. That money could be left here, especially since Michael was making more than all of us. Moreover, being white, Michael can get a job anywhere. Later (in October), I pointed out to him that the anniversary of the Tri-State Defender was hardly being observed by the community or advertisers, so I know that neither paid attention to our layoffs.
Tony had said that he was going to do a story in the Flyer and that he would like statements from me. I agreed to talk with him (on tape) when he was ready. We never had the taped talk, though we talked almost daily by phone. I would never publicly hurl what could be seen as a racial slur toward any person. And I would never paint myself up to be a public whiner.
Virginia L. Porter
To the Editor:
I enjoy reading The Memphis Flyer, particularly the articles on local politics, Rob Brezsny's weekly horoscope, and the wonderfully sarcastic tone of Tim Sampson's We Recommend. However, I was disappointed to read Sampson's commentary on the Overton Square Arts and Jazz Festival (May 23rd issue). He wrote, "The crowd was equally black and white. Racism in Memphis is alive only in the minds of those who dwell on it while the rest of us are having fun."
Obviously, Sampson is writing from a place of racial privilege. There are people of color in this city who "dwell on it" because racism is a part of their everyday experience. Racism is what puts the police into racial profiling. It's what causes store clerks to look suspiciously at two black women shopping in a mall. It's what keeps white upper-class and middle-class Memphians moving east, away from working- and middle-class blacks and Latinos.
Lastly, racism is what makes Tim Sampson write that it doesn't exist. I am not implying that he is racist but that everyone is not having "fun" and there are political, cultural, and structural reasons why.
To the Editor:
As we figured, it happened. Memphis performed another hostile takeover (in Cordova), promising the moon and giving nothing in return. Memphis continues to slap the face of annexed residents. They are making plans to absorb the new area(s) into the current Memphis school system now, but this should've been done prior to any annexation effort. Memphis is perfectly content to take whatever tax money it can while passing on the associated costs of annexation to any other entity it can for as long as it can.
When Memphis annexed Hickory Hill in 1998, it promised a wealth of services but only built a school as part of an out-of-court settlement. Does anybody out there still have a spine to stop the junk promises that Memphis throws out prior to annexing or the gross mismanagement by Mayor Herenton and his cronies? Something smells, and it ain't the horse-drawn carriages on Beale Street.
David E. Ray
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