Tag Archives: ann walton kroenke

Black Enterprise Fails To Lead With Journalistic Integrity After Not Crediting HBCU Money Article On Ann Kroenke


By William A. Foster, IV

No man ever yet became great by imitation. – Samuel Johnson

2_NO BE

I was in second grade when I did my first book report. The class went to the library during the day and picked out our books and I chose Fraggle Rock to do my report on. Upon arriving home my mother as was customary had me and my sister sit down at the table to do our homework while she prepared dinner. I was excited about my book report, but there was just one problem – I had no idea what a book report entailed. Not bothering to ask I just started copying the book verbatim and I was about halfway through the book when my mother came to check on my progress. My mother asked me what I was doing and I of course told her my book report. Realizing I was just copying every word in the book she realized that perhaps I had not been properly instructed or did not understand exactly what a book report was. She talked to me about plagiarism or in second grade comprehension “copying” other people’s work and how it was not allowed. This was as they say a learning moment because beyond just explaining plagiarism to me she also talked to me about integrity, ethics, and the hard work that both the author and illustrator put into the book, and that it is always important to acknowledge people’s efforts. My mother being who she is had me to complete my first works cited page.

HBCU Money is a startup financial journalism multimedia company. There are no full-time writers and the site itself is still currently in a blog style format. I secure guest writers and try to be very creative producing original content like The HBCUpreneur Corner, one of the site’s more popular series that interviews HBCU entrepreneurs. The site is largely financed through bootstrapping and reinvesting the pence that the site currently receives through ad revenue. A primary reason for the blog style format is that its free and an extensive site overhaul has not been in the budget. Focusing on quality content has been. HBCU Money will not even turn three years old for another four months. While the site recently achieved the 100 000 views milestone, HBCU Money is by no means busting at the bandwidth in terms of readership. Our social media presence is limited to less than 1 000 followers and the Facebook page has less than 200. Despite all these resource limitations my mother’s lesson is soundly within me with all content that is produced. Sources are extensively fact checked and credit is always given when quoting others work. The fundamentals or basics you learn in high school english 101 and as a college freshmen in your english composite class. Things that I believe will be in this company’s DNA as it grows and a culture I will fight fiercely to ensure are well rooted into anyone who comes to work for this company.

Recently, I was working on a piece on education demographics of America’s 100 wealthiest and I happen upon Mrs. Ann Kroenke. Her Forbes profile listed her school as Lincoln University. As you may or may not know there are three Lincoln Universities in the United States and two are HBCUs. I could have just assumed that she went to the Lincoln University in Missouri because she lives in Missouri. Instead, I decided to do what you were suppose to do and that is contact a credible source. I did so by contacting the registrar’s office at LUM, which I chose first because most signs pointed to it being the most likely one. I received verification from the school that yes I had the right person.  This is a huge story. In fact, the morning I was breaking this story a fellow journapreneur Jarrett Carter, owner and publisher of HBCU Digest, said to me, “I hope your server is tight. I am sure this post will go global. Don’t let your site melt.”  I knew the story was big. For decades, Oprah Winfrey had been held up as HBCU’s wealthiest and only billionaire HBCU alumn. Now, I was about to tell HBCU Nation that was incorrect and the true wealthiest HBCU alum is a Walton, owners’ of the Walmart Empire, and an European American woman. I felt fairly certain that the HBCU Digest would pick up the story as one of its primary objectives is to operate as a curation resource for HBCU news and information. However, I never had any doubts that Jarrett and his staff would acknowledge our role in breaking the story. As the picture below shows that is exactly what they did and have always done when curating any of HBCU Money’s articles. Are they required to do this? No, but it is about journalistic integrity. Unfortunately, everyone does not seem to share this sense of integrity.  The next day, I decided to do a social media check on twitter just to see how well the article was spreading. Well, it was spreading alright, but it was not spreading from us. One of Black Enterprise’s writers decided to parrot our article and link its source back to Forbes as you see in their picture below, but at no point acknowledge who actually broke the story. Obviously, Black Enterprise has a much larger reach than we do so for all intents and purposes to most consumers it looks as if they broke the story. Again, well within their legal rights to report it as they did, but completely lacking any integrity along the way. HBCU Money is a small print compared to Black Enterprise, Bloomberg, and Forbes in the financial journalism industry. What would it hurt Black Enterprise to give credit to the little guy who put in endless hours to research and break such a story?

HBCU Digest curation of HBCU Money’s article on Ann Kroenke. (below)

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.39.41 PM

 

Black Enterprise’s parroting of HBCU Money’s article on Ann Kroenke. (below)

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.03.53 PM

This situation speaks to the cancer that is in journalism today. The desire to be first or grab whatever story is driving traffic is crumbling the fundamentals of journalistic virtuosity today. You can see it when you watch CNN, Fox, and other major media outlets. Breaking original stories is no longer a priority or building on the established story. Black Enterprise could have interviewed HBCU Money and talked to us about what it was like to break such a story, but they did not. Given they have many times my resources they could have gone to Missouri and potentially interviewed Mrs. Kroenke about our story. Both would have been building upon the story that was out and still have been original on their part. Instead, they chose the apathetic and unimaginative option of parroting our story and driving traffic to their site. Black Enterprise could be helping to cultivate a new generation of journalpreneurs like HBCU Digest, HBCUstory, and HBCU Money. It is after all, a company that was founded and owned by an HBCU graduate. Unfortunately, behavior like this makes it questionable that beyond their own limited resources what if any lessons they could share. It also comes across to me as a company attempting to fruitlessly protect its monopoly on African American financial journalism and speaks to an interview Ken Auletta had with Charlie Rose in 2010 where he discussed an interview with Bill Gates. He asked Gates what he was worried about and to Auletta surprise, Gates answer was not being the obvious competitors that Microsoft had at the time, but he said, “I worry about someone  in a garage inventing something I’ve never thought of.” It almost begs the question has journalism as an industry completely lost its way with the advent of blogging. Journalist and news companies are now operating more as bloggers and not as journalist; not looking to produce original stories like that of HBCU Money’s Ann Kroenke or even attempting to research, investigate, and report something that could be among the Brookings Institute’s Ten Noteworthy Moments In U.S. Investigative Journalism. There is an abyss of stories in African America and Diaspora business world that goes uncovered and that not even one company with all its might could cover alone.

Nas came out with an album entitled Hip Hop Is Dead speaking to his frustration of the absence of quality and originality of content within the music genre ten years ago. However, hip-hop was not dead, but the ability to find artist and the accompanying music that had a depth of constitution required a deeper inquiry than in previous generations. As is the case today with journalism it appears; and that is regrettable given how important information and different angles or points of view are to our society. The need for more media ownership in this country goes without saying, and that is especially true for African America, but I believe it to be true for every community. Every community needs to be able to express their point of view and relay information about things that are intimately impacting them. However, with that ownership comes a great responsibility to the pillars that my mother instilled in me at our dinner table that night and that is integrity, ethics, and hard work. If we do not have them as an industry, then we will be relegated to a society of informationally embalmed people instead of the vibrant, progressive, and inquisitive society that we believe we want and should be.

Advertisements

Who Is The Wealthiest HBCU Graduate? Hint: It Is Not Oprah Winfrey


By William A. Foster, IV

“The only thing that should surprise us is that there are still some things that can surprise us.” – Francois de La Rochefoucald

ann-walton-kroenke_416x416

Pictured Above: Ann Walton Kroenke, Lincoln University (MO) – Class of 1972

In a recent article for HBCU Money, I was researching the educational demographics for America’s 100 wealthiest. Naturally, as I was looking through their profiles I was seeing the names of your typical Harvard, Yale, etc. as colleges attended. Knowing that Oprah Winfrey, who is not among America’s 100 wealthiest, has long been the only African American billionaire and was an alum of Tennessee State University it seemed fairly certain she was then the wealthiest HBCU graduate. You know A + B = C type stuff. Well, you know what happens when you assume. I stumbled across the profile of one Ann Walton Kroenke and saw the name Lincoln University, but the profile did not specify which Lincoln University. If it turned to be true, then Ann Walton Kroenke would actually be the wealthiest HBCU alum. Mrs. Kroenke’s $5.1 billion net worth according to Forbes makes her 76 percent wealthier than Oprah Winfrey.

Wait, what? Can that be right? Is there another Lincoln University other than the two HBCU Lincoln Universities? Turns out there is one in California so the investigation was on to verify exactly which Lincoln University she attended. After some digging and further research the answer would indeed be she attended and finished from the HBCU known as Lincoln University of Missouri. According to Lincoln University (MO) school records, “Ann Marie Walton received an Associate of Applied Science majoring in Nursing Science on May 14, 1972. She attended Lincoln University from August 1970 to May 1972.” Yes, the Walton name you see is actually her maiden name; and yes it is those Waltons to which she is related and derived most of her wealth from. She is the daughter of James “Bud” Walton who co-founded the Walmart empire with his brother and more well-known Sam Walton. James and Sam Walton spent their formative years being raised in Missouri by their parents. According to the Historical Society of Missouri, the majority of Walmart’s initial store openings would happen in Missouri and Arkansas. The pair originally got started owning Ben Franklin variety stores after Sam Walton obtained a $20 000 loan from his father-in-law in 1945. An amount that would be equivalent to $260 000 in today’s dollars. Walmart would come into being after the two brothers decided to expand into rural communities in the early 1960s. Although the company is well known as having its headquarters in Arkansas; the family’s roots have been firmly planted in Columbia, Missouri since the 1930s.

A fascinating prospect if ever there was one given Missouri’s own paradoxical racial history despite not being considered “south” geographically, but having much of the cultural nuances of it. Mrs. Kroenke, would have been a fresh 21 year old at the time of her arrival in the fall of 1970. The Nursing Science program itself would be just a year old at Lincoln having been launched in 1969. America’s backdrop in 1970 would be fresh off the heels of Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, and the Black Panther Party in 1970 would see the apex of its membership and power. Walmart as an incorporated company is not even a year old, when the then Ms. Walton would be entering Lincoln University’s (MO) program. America’s wealthiest family to be was by no means poor, but her father and uncle were also leveraging all of the family’s resources to strike out on their own and build their company. The possibility that Mrs. Kroenke at the time needed a fallback could have certainly been plausible, but why Lincoln University (MO)? Given the backdrop of race relationships, civil rights, and her family’s resources it is inherently fascinating how the family and/or she decided to send her 40 minutes down the road to Jefferson City, Missouri to attend an HBCU.

The discovery of Mrs. Kroenke as a Lincoln University (MO) alumni is no small happenstance. Not only is she worth $5.1 billion herself, but she is married to one Stanley Kroenke who is billionaire real estate developer himself worth $5.6 billion. The couple owns professional sports teams in every professional sport, except baseball. Their roster includes the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, NFL’s St. Louis Rams, MLS’s Colorado Rapids, and English soccer club Arsenal. A $50 million donation from Mrs. Kroenke for the endowment would instantly catapult Lincoln University (MO) to the number six slot in terms of HBCU endowments. It would also become the largest gift ever to an HBCU and it would not even be 1 percent of her wealth and less than 0.5 percent of the couples combined wealth. Yes, you read that correctly.

It would be interesting to see how the HBCU community would receive the donation quite honestly. There would be more than a bit of mixed feelings certainly. Given the new push for cultural and ethnic “diversity” (despite European Americans always being welcomed at HBCUs since their inception while vice versa was not true) at HBCUs as presidents have seemingly given up on how to increase the HBCU share of African American high school graduates going to HBCUs which currently sits at 10-12 percent, and instead focused on recruiting all other groups as a way to deal with tuition revenue shortfalls from dropping student populations and to sell themselves as more “American”. This despite many older HBCU alumni believing that these students are even less likely to give back to an HBCU than the traditional core demographic. There is no data to say one way or the other. Unfortunately, this is not something HBCUs can afford to be wrong on given the amount of resources they seem to be throwing at recruiting other communities. If the payoff is only a short-term fix for a long-term problem, then we are simply continuing to put a band-aid on a bullet wound. There is also the psychological impact of the largest donation (albeit from an alumni) still coming from someone that is European American much in the way when the valedictorian of Morehouse some years ago was European American and the fallout it caused. A wound, that in talking to some Morehouse alums still runs deep. However, Lincoln University (MO) seems to lack any endowment of note or at least has refused to publish the number anywhere in my research for it.

The old adage that beggars can not be choosy may apply here as HBCUs have continued to lack in obtaining transformative donations, those that are of the eight and nine figure variety, and in general struggle with consistency in alumni giving rates as a whole. America’s wealthiest family at the writing of this article was worth north of $150 billion combined by the three surviving children of Sam Walton, the widow of Sam Walton’s fourth child, and the two daughters of James “Bud” Walton, one of which is Mrs. Ann Walton Kroenke. The family also has a bittersweet HBCU connection when in 2012 the Tennessee Supreme Court allowed Alice Walton, the only daughter of Sam Walton and founder of Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, to purchase a 50 percent stake in Fisk University’s George O’Keeffe art collection for $30 million as Fisk dealt with financial issues. It goes without saying that the Walton family clearly knows about HBCUs, but whether or not HBCUs and more specifically Lincoln University (MO) can leverage that into something transformative is another story. I would go so far as to say I would set up an office in Columbia, Missouri if I was LUM’s administration and dedicate development staff solely to the purpose of achieving that donation.

Honestly, finding out Oprah Winfrey is not the wealthiest HBCU graduate almost feels like the moment as a child you figure out Santa is not really real. To find out there are two HBCU graduates who are billionaires is always good news. That one of those billionaires is a member of the Walton family is almost too hard to wrap my own mind around at the moment, but as my favorite HBCUstorian Dr. Crystal DeGregory famously says, “HISTORY is the story of great men; HERSTORY of great women. HBCUstory is the story of HBCU greatness. That’s our story!” And I have to say our story never ceases to amaze me.