Editor Bankole Thompson leaving Michigan Chronicle
Detroit — Michigan Chronicle senior editor Bankole Thompson announced Thursday that he will leave the paper July 8.
In a candid resignation letter to Hiram Jackson, owner of the Chronicle and CEO of Real Times Media, Thompson said he was leaving after a Wednesday meeting in which Jackson told Thompson “in no uncertain terms that (Jackson’s) new vision for the Michigan Chronicle and Real Times Media has no place for me, and you concluded that it was high time we went our separate ways,” according to Thompson.
Jackson, in a statement, said: “Bankole has been a tremendous asset to the Michigan Chronicle, and we wish him the best in all of his future endeavors.” Jackson wasn’t immediately available for further comment.
“Bankole Thompson is a top-notch journalist whose insightful writing and editing have set a high standard,” said Jonathan Wolman, publisher and editor of The Detroit News. “Under his leadership, the Chronicle has been a must-read.”
Thompson said he was proud of the work done at the paper during his tenure as senior editor despite what he called “editorial interference,” the paper’s difficulty in meeting payrolls and “stale stories” that he said were pushed by financial executives with no background in journalism.
Thompson said his belief in the importance of the paper, a weekly aimed at the local African-American community, made him stay on as senior editor despite the company’s alleged connection to “pension fund deals during the Kwame Kilpatrick era and the corruption investigations.”
“I endured great pains to maintain journalistic integrity, serving as editor of a paper whose parent company borrowed money from the city’s pension fund,” Thompson said in his letter to Jackson. The Michigan Chronicle was founded in 1936 and has a paid circulation of 36,000.
Real Times Media is 49 percent owned by Detroit’s city pension fund, an equity stake awarded in forgiveness of $15.5 million in loans provided to the media firm in 2007-08 to consolidate debt and fund its growth strategy.
The loans, approved under a prior General Retirement System board, allegedly lost the pension fund $13.3 million and were referenced in a federal bribery and kickback case involving former Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick’s fraternity brother and ex-Detroit Treasurer Jeffrey Beasley and three others.
Real Times has not been charged in the indictment, nor has any company official.
Real Times repaid about $3 million on the loans before the company and pension board agreed to convert the outstanding balance to equity. The revised deal gave the fund an ownership stake in Real Times.
In the federal bribery indictment, prosecutors claimed Real Times was among several companies that allegedly gave funds to Kilpatrick’s nonprofit, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, in exchange for favorable treatment from Beasley and city pension funds.
The indictment did not identify Real Times by name. Instead, the firm is called “Company I,” but interviews with sources, dates listed in the indictment and pension fund meeting minutes indicated that the firm was Real Times.
According to court records and pension fund meeting minutes, Real Times received the loan after the firm and its unnamed consultant allegedly gave $45,000 to the nonprofit.
Jackson and officials representing the company have denied any link between the loans and money given to the civic fund.