Keith Clayborne in Black and White
Keith Clayborne maneuvers his red Ford Mustang along Sistrunk Boulevard in a pouring rain. His headlights dance ahead of the car, revealing the dark doorways of tiny strip malls and rundown buildings. They splash off a liquor store, a funeral parlor, and a tattoo shop, then slow to linger on a six-foot-high fence.
Clayborne eases the Mustang through an open gate in the chainlink, which surrounds the two-story building dominating a corner of 14th Street in Fort Lauderdale. He climbs out of the car and walks into the ground floor of the Broward County NAACP office.
The ride into central Fort Lauderdale from his plush Coral Springs home irritates Clayborne as always. Sistrunk Boulevard, although greened with trees and grass, remains almost as destitute as it appeared when he printed the first issue of The Broward Times out of a local copy shop a decade ago.
"It's about expectations," he complains, "and black folks don't have high-enough expectations. Our leaders have done nothing to change that."
Inside the NAACP building, the 48-year-old former New York Times Company executive brushes the raindrops off his black-and-tan houndstooth sports jacket. Underneath he wears a black knit golf shirt and creased dress trousers. A three-point silk handkerchief peeks from the pocket of the jacket, a natty touch of style that Clayborne is never lacking. He climbs a set of stairs and strides into the meeting hall.
The crowd grows still. Clayborne looks to the front, past almost 100 visitors, and eyes the most recent high-profile target of The Broward Times' weekly editorial broadsides: Roosevelt Walters, who clutches a microphone and addresses the assembled members and visitors like a man speaking to children, almost sweetly.
Walters announces he will step down after 12 years as president of Broward's NAACP for a couple of reasons. First, he is tired. Second? "Ten or twelve people are against me," he declares. "There's a lot of writing about me living rent-free on Las Olas Boulevard."
Everyone here knows Walters has just pointed to Clayborne. In the September 22 issue of the Times, Clayborne broke a story that Walters was paying nothing to live in a Las Olas Boulevard house previously owned by a late admirer of the NAACP. At her death the woman donated the $250,000 home to the association. In another article Clayborne also accused Walters of "racial extortion" after discovering that the NAACP president ferried discrimination complainants to a paralegal, who filed many lawsuits for millions of dollars, then "extracted" donations for the NAACP from lawyers and employers. The newsman spotlighted Walters with a front-page opinion piece calling for Walters' resignation. Within three days the Sun-Sentinel echoed the news stories and followed with its own editorial.
Clayborne's articles were bad enough. The "white" press picking up on the story sparked a fight among black community activists traditionally unused to going public with their disagreements; most of those gathered at the NAACP meeting are staunch Walters supporters.
Facing the crowd, Walters admits he lived in a room in the house and promises to send a check to national NAACP headquarters to cover the rent. But he insists that he also paid thousands for house maintenance and that he has the receipts to prove it. (Walters doesn't address Clayborne's other allegations.)
"To be accused of living rent-free is simply someone who didn't get the story right. So Mr. Newsman," Walters calls to Clayborne, punching the key words, "if you want to see [the receipts], I'll show 'em to you."
"Show 'em to me," Clayborne challenges.
Hisses shower Clayborne, and one man shouts at him: "He's right, brother, I was there."
A smiling Walters continues, "For more than two years now, there has been an attack on me.... I have received many cards of late, letters of late, threats against my family. They know it doesn't do any good with me, because I've been threatened for years." The audience simultaneously cheers Walters and growls at his nominally anonymous antagonist. "And there is one common thread between three of the death threats," Walters continues, his voice rising in anger, "a single word that has appeared in hate mail and news articles."
Hoots rise briefly. The crowd waits to hear the magic word, but Walters leaves his audience hanging. Federal authorities, he says, will begin looking into the threats the next morning; they will study the word.
Clayborne has just been accused of threatening the life of a local official of the NAACP. He looks at the floor. Reporters for both the Sun-Sentinel and The Miami Herald, validating the notion in the black community that the white press doesn't care about it, miss this moment, arriving shortly afterward. By the time the meeting concludes at 9 p.m., the membership has occupied itself with such dry parliamentary matters as the nomination of new candidates for branch president, vice presidents, and secretary. (Walters did not return repeated phone calls from New Times seeking comment for this story.)
As the meeting breaks up, Clayborne walks downstairs, chatting with Terry Lewis, a native of Harlem. Lewis, now a doctoral candidate at Florida Atlantic University, praises Clayborne for raising uncomfortable questions. Lewis welcomes Clayborne's opining. He remains unfazed when Clayborne questions the ethics of such leaders as Walters and long-time Fort Lauderdale city commissioner Carlton Moore. He embraces Clayborne's call for a new black leadership style that can replace what the journalist calls the "old, emotional, sort of Baptist approach" with economic pragmatism.
"They see him as an outsider," Lewis says. "[They say,] "He's not from here, so what right does he have to mouth off?' Those hisses and stuff are related to a mindset in the black community. It has a history of oppression and racism, so that anybody who attacks black community leaders is seen as working with white people."
Most white readers never saw Clayborne's initial stories because they don't read so-called black newspapers, Lewis suggests with a smile. But many of the movers and shakers among Broward's nearly 300,000 blacks read them: The Broward Times cuts across the economic, social, and geographic boundaries of the black community "like a new wind," Lewis adds.
Outdoors the rain continues to fall. Clayborne climbs into his Mustang and begins the long drive home to Coral Springs. "Man-oh-man!" he exclaims later, shaking his head in disbelief at the suggestion that he might be conspiring with the powers that be to bring down Walters, or any other black leader. "This business."
For all his explosive rhetoric, Clayborne insists his newspaper is a business venture, first and foremost. The Times supports his wife and four children, he explains, and ensures his comfortable future. Through his financial success, he hopes to prove a larger point: that blacks should quit blaming whites for some problems and fight harder for economic autonomy. "We have to look at our own self-interest," he insists, "not look at things as just black-and-white."
Clayborne has never been shy about advancing his own self-interest. In August he announced a deal with the Sun-Sentinel that allows him to share advertising, some news, and printing with the paper -- the South Florida outpost of the massive, Chicago-based Tribune Company. His new partner announced the deal August 9 with little fanfare but neglected to detail further plans. Now, Clayborne says, he has been quietly negotiating to sell The Broward Times outright to the Sun-Sentinel. He adds that the sale could happen before May.
Both his current deal and gestating plan mark a sharp departure from his stance only four years ago. Then Clayborne's headlines derided the Sun-Sentinel as a bunch of "White Boys" and "Greedy Bandits" when the newspaper's planners considered publishing their own black-oriented weekly. Is Clayborne a hypocrite for even considering a sellout to that same media giant?
"Of course not," he scoffs. "First of all let me repeat what I've always said: This is a business. And secondly, I'm undecided. I wouldn't sell unless I could be sure the paper would keep its black editorial voice."
Clayborne and his wife ran the first issue of The Broward Times off a copy machine in 1990, but his business ambition was born 25 years earlier. At the time Clayborne was one of three children living in the black section of Des Moines, Iowa. His mother ran the household by herself while employed cleaning rooms in a local hotel, sometimes enlisting the aid of her children, who would scrub the hard-to-reach spots on porcelain bowls with a toothbrush. "We were not allowed, not ever allowed to mess around," he recalls with a smile. "If we did, she'd go out in the yard and get a branch off the mulberry tree, and wet it. Then she'd whip us."
At 14 years of age, Clayborne entered a 1960s-era Great Society program called Upward Bound, designed to help poor kids. In that program, Clayborne recalls, he traveled by bus to Minneapolis, where he stayed in a hotel for the first time and saw a play at the Guthrie Theater.
"I was stunned," he says, "stunned and amazed at the bigger world. These adults, both white and black, sat around, and they were actually interested in us, in what we said, and they were nice. And they all had business cards. I decided right there that I would do whatever it took to be able to get that life, to stay in hotels and see plays and have business cards."
He played football, won a scholarship to the University of Iowa at Iowa City, and became the first member of his family to earn a college degree. Almost immediately he secured a job (with business cards) at the Chicago-based Continental Can Company. A "progressive" company that promoted on merit regardless of race, Continental put Clayborne on a fast track to management. He rose through human resources positions at plants in Milwaukee and northern New Jersey, where he switched companies and signed up with Bristol-Myers.
He also took his résumé to a headhunter in New York, a city he had come to love. The move led him into the publishing business. At 26 years of age, Clayborne joined the human resources department of the New York Times Company, which owned several smaller newspapers, radio stations, and TV companies, in addition to the famous daily newspaper.
Clayborne characterizes his job as that of a corporate hit man, who flew into town like the grim reaper, often to fire a manager or publisher after negotiating a severance package.
He recalls sitting in a fine restaurant and ending the career of a man who had founded his own magazine. "This guy had about a gazillion dollars. And I looked at him and told him his services would no longer be needed, and he was devastated. I thought he was going to cry. He didn't care about the money, it hurt his pride."
But it didn't hurt Clayborne, who had begun to understand a life of privilege few black Americans of the 1970s enjoyed. "I couldn't feel sorry for them," he said of those he let go. "In the case of this particular guy, all he had to do all day was play golf. I told him, "Man, if somebody offered me a million bucks, I'd be out of here now.'"
One day, Clayborne recalls, his boss told him to rush out to La Guardia Airport and catch the company's corporate jet for a quick ride south. When Clayborne boarded the plane, the two pilots, both white, asked him if they could get him anything.
""Like what?' I said.
And they said, "Anything.'
I told them, "All right, let's stop in Philly and get a cheesesteak on the way, I'm hungry.'
And they said, "OK.'
I said, "No, no, guys, I'm kidding.' But it was the first time I realized how these people really lived."
Clayborne was not all business. In the fall of 1977 he traveled to the Bahamas to vacation. When he walked into a small, family-owned perfume shop, he met Bernadette Bostwick, an 18-year-old Bahamian. The next day he returned, took her to lunch, and asked her to marry him. She said yes. Clayborne returned to the island three weeks later to meet her family but found himself unable to rent a car to make the 20-mile drive from his hotel in the tourist area to her home.
"So he rented a golf cart," she says. "I was pleased and embarrassed. He drove miles in this golf cart; he was determined. When Keith is determined, there's no stopping him."
For about three years the couple lived in lavish style on the lower east side of Manhattan before buying a house on Long Island. By the time he was 31 years old, he earned more than $100,000 a year. "But I was bored," he recalls. "So one day I did something really stupid: I quit."
Clayborne decided he could manage a small business, work for himself, and make a lot of money. "I'd read some books about it, you know, and I thought that's all it took. So I told my boss, and he said, "No you don't, Keith, you don't want to do this.' And I said, "Yes, I do.' And I did."
Then the roller coaster started, recalls a now amused Bernadette. "I said, "Whatever, honey, I'll be right there,' but I didn't know I'd have to give up my Mercedes-Benz and teatime with the girls."
The couple took their savings and plowed it into small businesses on Long Island: a Laundromat, a dry-cleaning operation, some rental properties. They spent about three hard years there, then sold the businesses and moved to the Bahamas. They bought a house on the beach and ran a series of ventures, including a windsurfing operation near a hotel -- Clayborne loves to windsurf -- and later a "shopper," a little island publication for tourists and locals. Each week he had to fly to Miami to have the publication printed, because the cost on the island was prohibitive. Eventually he grew bored again.
From a map the couple picked Fort Lauderdale as their next destination. It was close enough to get to the Bahamas easily, and the city and surrounding county had a reputation for growth and opportunity. They arrived in 1989 with money and expectations. After a year of struggling to find a niche, they had run through most of their savings, Clayborne recalls grimly. He had to start earning a living, so he decided to kick off The Broward Times.
"I'd gone from six figures, a house on Long Island, and all the trimmings to a small two-bedroom apartment in Pompano Beach," he says. "I even considered getting back to corporate life, and one Christmas  it got so bad we didn't even have a place to live. We were in a motel between places. I felt like crying. I told Bernadette, "Maybe you should think about taking the kids and finding something better.'"
She recalls that time with laughter. "Yes, he told me that, but I knew Keith, and I knew he would make it. Besides, he's my husband. I'd live with Keith if we had to live in a cardboard box." While Keith struggled to build the paper, Bernadette went down the street from their apartment and took a job selling used cars.
Clayborne's editorial philosophy, he says, proved simple from the start. "We wanted something that would make us a living and something that would do some good for the black community, too."
Jerry Kolo, a professor of urban studies at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, watched The Broward Times emerge. "I'm fascinated by the foresight he had, that "I'm going to focus on political issues [that] tend to be explosive, divisive,'" Kolo says. "Nobody was doing that, because the black press doesn't do that, and he carved out a niche. He's done well from an economic standpoint. He's moved from a dingy two-bedroom apartment to a mansion in Coral Springs, but his continued involvement in the community is demonstrative: You don't have to live in the blighted area to stay involved."
On election night, only days after the NAACP meeting, Clayborne plunges into the excited crowd of supporters at Josephus Eggelletion's campaign headquarters in Lauderhill. Here, unlike at the NAACP meeting, Clayborne is on friendly turf.
On the previous Friday, his front page had blasted Carlton Moore, Eggelletion's opponent in the race for the District 9 seat on the Broward County Commission. Clayborne weighed in with the heaviest fusillades he could fire, above the fold on the front page. "THE MAN'S PAWN," screamed the headline of a story that explored campaign donations to Moore from wealthy white businessmen. Under a photograph of Moore, the caption read: "FOR SALE: Will help white folks keep blacks in check and away from the money. Can give good speeches too."
The story appeared side by side with the same column that attacked not only Roosevelt Walters but the NAACP itself. "The shame of this whole NAACP fiasco is that the NAACP we remember in our hearts and minds is no longer that NAACP," he wrote. "Part of that is our fault for having gone our merry way as freedom and opportunity developed for the black middle class. We have left the organization to the devices of those who have turned it into a self-serving club for their own personal gain and fundraising tool. Today its major events include a Freedom Fund gala selling tables of 10 to corporate Broward, and raising monies for members to attend its national shindig. Very little else is done to enrich or improve the lot of black folks in Broward County."
Clayborne even criticized Eggelletion for having "shied away from the "hot potato' of racism at [Fort Lauderdale] City Hall and the NAACP issue." Neither Moore nor Eggelletion has "been able to summon the courage against these travesties," he wrote. "They're scared, and like the movie, In Too Deep."
The newsman is just as bold in person as he is in print, moving enthusiastically from one campaigner to another. People welcome him with smiles, backslaps, and warm handshakes; although he criticized Eggelletion, he reserved the greater part of his wrath for Moore, a fact everybody here appreciates. Men and women move back and forth from a table of barbecued chicken and potato salad to the television screens, one of which is tuned to the first presidential debate. An outside balcony is crowded with people huddled in close conversations.
An anxious Eggelletion nods and waves at Clayborne but manages to keep his distance. Clayborne is at ease in this setting and clearly loves being a player on the political scene. "I'd never be a politician like that, though," he says, nodding at Eggelletion. "No way. Not enough time for the family."
One of the county's few black Republican leaders, Al Calloway, studies the bonhomie surrounding Clayborne as the publisher moves among the crowd. "I know what's it like to take a different road. How many Republicans do you know who are black?" Calloway asks. "I admire Keith because he can say the unpopular thing."
Clayborne's contrarian views are certainly popular in the Eggelletion camp. When his wife, Bernadette, appears midway through the evening, camera in hand, to photograph Eggelletion and key supporters for the next issue of the Times, Clayborne tries to stand outside the camera's view. Yet someone manages to hustle him into at least one of Bernadette's shots.
For Clayborne, an Eggelletion defeat this night would reaffirm the self-interested parochialism of local black leaders. "Joe [Eggelletion]'s not perfect, I'm not saying that," he comments, watching the politician gravely studying returns. "But he can establish a new paradigm for leadership and behavior, in which blacks recognize they are part of a much larger community." Clayborne has done what he can to make that happen.
By midnight, his effort bears fruit. As the numbers pour in, the crowd grows animated and confident. Now all smiles, Eggelletion emerges victorious, with 55 percent of the vote. This marks a serious setback for Moore; not only has he failed in his bid to win the Broward County Commission seat, but as of November 21, he will step down from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, having resigned to take on Eggelletion. He'll be forced to run again in a December 5 special election to regain his city seat.
Moore did not return calls from New Times seeking comment on Clayborne, his newspaper, or their effect on Moore's campaign and career. The next morning Clayborne gets to work early, hiding in his home office, where he struggles to write copy that will put the election in perspective for readers of his Friday paper.
If you ask Keith Clayborne whether he's a newsman or a businessman first, he equivocates: "I'm in the business of news." He defines the reality of his paper in and out of print as a business. "It's not a black-advocacy arm," he stresses.
Clayborne would apply that description to The Westside Gazette, his only competition. The Gazette offers "positive" news about blacks to a readership of about 50,000 people, according to editor and publisher Bobby Henry, who inherited the paper from his father, Levi Henry, and operates it out of a former public school and mostly abandoned business incubator maintained by the City of Fort Lauderdale. His staff of 13 includes many family members.
Like most black-owned newspapers in the United States, he says, the 30-year-old Gazette provided black readers with a community identity when the white-owned dailies ignored them. Today the paper continues to devote its 32 weekly pages to stories about Kiwanis Club meetings, literacy grants that could help black children, sports teams and players, and black political candidates facing off in upcoming elections. The political stories offer no opinion and report nothing controversial, including revelations about candidates printed by mainstream dailies.
The "positive" approach distinguishes him from Clayborne, Henry says. "Our philosophies differ. I think the election hurt the black community, and it was slanted by Keith and by the white press. We're here to highlight the positives of our people. The attacks on Walters and Moore have not been the role of the black press -- that's just buying into the mainstream media. When a point was made about Walters moving into a house on Las Olas, they jumped on it. Do you think the Sun-Sentinel would have written about it if he'd moved into a house on Sistrunk? You know they wouldn't."
Henry blames Clayborne in part for firing up a divisive fight.
"Anybody can muckrake," he says. "And nobody's squeaky clean. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone."
Terry Lewis. the doctoral candidate at FAU's Center For Urban Development, says both papers have a place, and the quiet animosity between their editors has a history. "One day years ago I was on a radio show with the Henrys, Levi and Bobby, and with Keith," he recalls. "And the old man became so angry he wanted to fight Keith. Nothing happened, though."
One of the few wholehearted apologists for The Broward Times, Lewis grew up reading one of the country's most well-known black newspapers, The Amsterdam News, printed in his hometown of Harlem. "The Westside Gazette is more like The Amsterdam News in that it tries to put a good face on everything," Lewis says, noting that other famous black-community newspapers do the same thing: The Los Angeles Sentinel, The Chicago Defender, and The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation's oldest. "But Keith is like, "OK, look, we have a problem.' Keith's paper has a mindset that is not typical of South Florida. Look at The Miami Times, too. They don't do hard pieces, and they have the resources, the advertising staff, everything." (Miami Times owner Garth Reeves did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this story.)
Lewis says Clayborne's approach wins readers, not friends. "I think Keith has courage. He wants black Broward County to aspire to higher standards of behavior or to broaden their perspectives. People say Keith's paper is The National Enquirer of the black community, but they read it. They may not like it, but they read it."
Kolo, the FAU professor and community activist, is less enthusiastic. "[Clayborne] has aired our dirty laundry in public, which a lot of people don't like," he says. "You have to have a free press, otherwise we might all as well pack our bags and leave. But sometimes Keith is a bit of a rabble-rouser."
He notes that Clayborne's confrontational approach has soured relationships with some organizations, including local chapters of national black fraternities and sororities. "I don't like the word destroying, but the fact that he is not apologetic has put a sour tinge on those relationships," he adds.
Clayborne's aggressiveness has not soured business; on the contrary, it may have saved it. Once he and his wife had to go door-to-door seeking corporate advertising. Clayborne recalls parking a beat-up old Dodge around the corner and wearing his only blue suit when visiting the front offices of wealthy businesses. Looking confident and moneyed, he would then convince them to purchase pages of advertising. The Claybornes no longer solicit. "Now the advertising just walks in the door," he says.
So does a lot of work. He handles the editorial side of the business from a spacious office at one end of the family's two-story house, and Bernadette manages the books and maintains circulation lists from an office -- which doubles as a laundry room -- at the other end.
State-of-the-art computers are the most costly tools the Claybornes own, except for two delivery trucks. The large rooms between the two offices are filled with paintings and pieces of sculpture: a four-foot watercolor of a buffalo soldier, mounted and riding at a gallop appears on one wall. A blue swimming pool gleams outside sliding glass doors.
For ten years the workaday rhythms of the Claybornes have remained unchanged. Monday and Tuesday are planning days. On Wednesday Clayborne writes a front-page opinion column and some news stories, using freelance writers to round out the news coverage; the paper is printed on Thursday. On Friday a crew delivers the paper with the trucks Clayborne parks in a garage off Commercial Boulevard. If the paper's delivery men don't show up, Clayborne can find himself delivering papers at 4 a.m.
Clayborne's family stands at the center of this work: Two of the children, Kendrick and Kendall, even appear on the masthead as "circulation assistants." Work merges seamlessly into family life. Occasionally it also springs from the public appearances Clayborne makes to encourage black entrepreneurs or children.
Four years ago, Clayborne recalls, he walked into Parkview Elementary School to talk to a class of youngsters. "I noticed most of them weren't interested in anything. Their heads were down, or they were looking out the window. Even the teacher, in back, looked bored. I thought, This is gonna be great, and I excused myself to use the restroom. When I got in there, there were no seats on the toilets. There was excrement and graffiti on the walls. I couldn't use it -- no one could use it. I certainly wouldn't want my kids to have to go in there. So I went down to the principal's office and threw a fit. I was black and he was black, and it made it easier for me to do, I think. He told me I had no right to complain."
So Clayborne used his paper to advocate for better conditions. "I got angry calls saying, "What right have you got to criticize our people in public? These are good people, caring people, and they run good schools. You're black, and you shouldn't be attacking black folk.'"
Clayborne decries that attitude as "mythmaking" that blacks too often exercise to protect their images. "There are historical reasons for that, you know, sticking together in the face of whites who discriminate, trying to present a positive face, but it's wrong now. If they aren't doing their jobs and demanding [better] conditions for black schoolchildren, they're not my people."
So far, he says, his willingness to attack problems in print has not affected advertising. "Maybe if it did, I'd have to tone down my opinions. I hope not, but I don't know."
Clayborne has nurtured The Broward Times from a fledgling tabloid with a circulation of only a few hundred in its first weeks a decade ago to a niche broadsheet that offers unapologetic opinions and revelations on the front page, with a smattering of black community news inside. In 1993 the paper's circulation was 7000, a figure that more than tripled to 22,000 by 1997. Now the circulation is 48,000.
His earnings have followed a similar upward curve. In his first year, he grossed $47,000. That total is now close to $1 million. Where is this money coming from? The Man. "I've depended mostly on white advertising," Clayborne explains, pointing to full-page displays from Publix, banks such as Washington Mutual, and public-service agencies funded by state or federal money that lobby against drug use, teen pregnancy, or other problems.
Clayborne stresses that "white advertising" hasn't meant a "white" voice. In 1994 he ran a story that included mug shots of four bank presidents, all white. The story questioned why none of them employed even a single black executive. When the banks all withdrew their advertising from his paper, Clayborne ignored them, refusing to bow to their demands that he represent them as progressive.
Many in the black community acknowledge that Clayborne has always said exactly what he pleases. In 1996, business strategists at the Sun-Sentinel considered publishing a weekly paper aimed at the black community, a move that might have threatened Clayborne's business. He countered with the following headlines: "White Boys At Sun-Sentinel To Put Black-Owned Newspapers Out of Business," and "Sun-Sentinel, Bunch of Greedy Bandits: If they believe so much in diversity, why haven't they had a black publisher?"
Clayborne admits that his criticisms of white management four years ago might appear hypocritical to some now. Following his attack the Sun-Sentinel folded its tent and quietly retreated from the 1996 plan. Last week, company managers refused to comment on their reasons for backing away at the time.
Sun-Sentinel publisher Bob Gremillion announced the current content-sharing deal in August by calling it "an initial step." The company would not comment on any forthcoming additional steps; Clayborne is less reticent, freely acknowledging the possible sale of The Broward Times. Even if that deal fails to materialize, Clayborne allows that his existing Sun-Sentinel deal might not play well in light of his sharp attacks on Carlton Moore. Clayborne, after all, nailed Moore in print for taking the big-business campaign contributions of white businessmen.
"But this is a business," Clayborne counters, distinguishing his own role from that of Moore, an elected official. "It's first a business. And I have no intention of letting [The Broward Times] go if the paper won't retain its editorial voice. We're talking about that, so I don't see it as hypocrisy."
The Sun-Sentinel also nosed around The Westside Gazette a couple of times, says publisher Bobby Henry. That is why he remains deeply suspicious. "They talked about a "relationship,' but you don't come in to take over a business when you talk about a relationship," he says. "A relationship has to be a state of mutual benefit. It should be good for everybody. So why don't they prove their good intentions by throwing a full-page ad from Burdines my way, or doing something like that? They never have."
To Clayborne, who saw the New York Times Company acquire plenty of small media businesses, the Sun-Sentinel move makes sense. "Why do you think the Sun-Sentinel is interested in maybe spending two or three million dollars on some little ten-page weekly like mine? Because they're looking ahead to their markets; they see the browning of Broward County. In 10 years or 20, more than half the population will be minority members, a lot of Hispanics, more blacks. And a lot more of the black middle class. They're not dumb, they want to secure a foothold on that market."
John Christie, who until recently served as vice president of planning and strategy at the Sun-Sentinel, confirms Clayborne's opinion about the big daily's long-term plans. "Keith is an intelligent guy," Christie says. "He's a little controversial, but I'd say his judgment is extremely accurate."
Clayborne's move, however, could raise questions even among such admirers as Terry Lewis. "I'm concerned about a free black press, which emerged historically because the white press didn't cover the black community," admits Lewis. "But look, Time-Life owns 49 percent of Essence Magazine; Emerge is out of business. The point is, things change, and it's a business. I just hope Keith maintains control over content. If not, if he becomes just a subsidiary [of the Sun-Sentinel], then that may not be good."
On a bright afternoon a week after Eggelletion's election victory, state senator Mandy Dawson (D-Fort Lauderdale) is leaving Clayborne's home after an hourlong unannounced visit.
"I can't figure out what she really wanted," he says, walking into his paneled office. "But she brought this." In his hand is a palm-size translation of The Art of War by the Chinese general Sun-tzu, a 2400-year-old treatise that became all the rage among business executives, politicians, and senior military officers in the '80s. "She's going to be head of the Broward delegation [in Tallahassee]," Clayborne says, impressed. "That's a very powerful position."
He puts the book on his desk. Clayborne has never heard of Sun-tzu, but the significance of the gesture is clear: The head of Broward's delegation has come bearing gifts, in effect to kiss Clayborne's ring, to acknowledge his influence among Broward's black population. She even asked him to give her advice, to help her establish goals.
Clayborne claims to feel discomfort in that role, but he is also smiling.
"I told her she's the elected leader, and those matters are her business," he says. "But I did suggest she focus on just one thing that's doable, and get it done. One thing at a time."
He looks at the load of work facing him from desk and computer. That's for today. But for tomorrow? "I could see myself in the role of a political adviser someday," he muses.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Broward / Palm Beach, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.