New Black Women Editors in Newspaper Shatter Journalism Glass Ceiling – The Undefeated
Maria Douglas Reeve laughs again, thinking of her father’s reaction when she told him that her specialty at Davidson College was English. His response: “What are you going to do with this?”
When she called him to announce her promotion to editor-in-chief of the Houston Chronicle, his now 80-year-old father had not forgotten his doubts about his choice of career in journalism. âWell, I’ll be damned,â he said.
It was big news when Reeve was promoted to editor-in-chief of the Houston Chronicle and Katrice Hardy has been appointed editor-in-chief of Dallas Morning News less than a day apart. The fact that two black women were appointed to the positions of editor-in-chief of the two largest newspapers in Texas in the same week was both historic and revolutionary. This is the first time that one of the subways in a big city has been run by an African American.
A 2018 survey by the American Society of News Editors, the most recent data available, found that only 7.19% of full-time newsroom employees were black. Only about 20% of these black employees held managerial positions.
Hardy called the Texas appointments “unbelievable,” particularly after Patricia Mays was appointed news editor for Hollywood journalist. And just six months earlier, another black woman, Monica Richardson, had been appointed editor-in-chief of Miami Herald.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Hardy, who was hired outside of the Indianapolis Star, where she led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize. âIt’s something we’re proud of. It took us so long to get there. We want to wear this badge of honor and wear it well.
âBut it’s important to stress that this is also a time when people are going to assume in some cases that we maybe got these roles because of our color or our gender,â she said. âThis couldn’t be further from the truth. Each of us has worked incredibly hard throughout our careers to secure these opportunities. We have earned them during some of the darkest and most difficult times in our industry. “
Pam McAllister Johnson, retired journalism professor at Western Kentucky University and first black woman editor of a mainstream daily at Gannett’s Ithaca Diary in 1982, said the measures were long overdue.
âMy immediate reaction was that this should have happened a long time ago,â she said. âLook at their credentials. I bet they had better references than the people who previously held these positions. [These newspapers] don’t do anything good by putting them in there. They have earned it time and time again. It could have been done 10 years ago.
Originally from Texas, Ruth Allen Ollison, former director of Washington and Dallas TV news who left journalism after nearly 25 years to become a minister, called Hardy and Reeve “the best of the best.”
âI hope that they will fully bring who they are to their positions,â said Ollison, now pastor of Beulah Land Community Church in Houston. âIt’s a special call from a black woman to lead in the first place. And so, I hope there will be no temptation for them to part with who they are to do this important work.
âThe country is at an interesting time, both historically and culturally,â added Debra Adams Simmons, editor-in-chief for culture at National Geographic Magazine and the former editor-in-chief of The simple merchant in Cleveland. âThus, they will be faced with demanding missions. And while there will be people celebrating them, there will also be people both within their organizations and outside in the communities they serve who will express criticism, doubts and skepticism about them. with regard to leadership. “
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and reporter for WBBM-TV in Chicago, said she was delighted to hear the news.
âTo see one and then another black woman in just a few days be appointed to this historic post, I have been smiling and smiling ever since,â she said. âIt feels good, not just for those of us who are veterans, who have been waiting for this for a very long time, but I consider him to be those young journalists, who have bright, hopeful eyes and who have all these dreams. I just think it’s wonderful.
Reeve says she’s definitely up to the challenge. âI’m really, really excited to have been put in charge of this role right now and this newsroom. I’m not going to say it’s overwhelming, because I’m up to it. I have worked really hard throughout my career to do every job I had to the best of my ability and to learn what I can bring to my newsroom and your main community. So, you know, now I can do it on a bigger stage.
Hardy, meanwhile, says that in the 10 years since Adams Simmons was editor in Cleveland, the industry has not been very diverse.
âIt’s extremely important that you’ve taken this step, but what’s next? It is up to us to lead this fight. We are in a position to make a difference. I wouldn’t have accepted this job if I didn’t think it was something that Dallas Morning News valued. One of the hats I wear is that of diversity president for the News Leaders Association, so I don’t go anywhere where it’s not valued and understood.