"Reporting While Black"
When I arrived at the Chicago Tribune in fall 1989, I soon discovered, that like myself, many Black reporters were degreed up and interned to the hilt. And yet, we were still deemed incompetent until proven competent. White reporters, some of them with no college degree at all, became national and foreign correspondents, ascended to the paper's top management positions.
It should have come as no surprise. It hadn't been that long ago that the first Black was allowed into the Trib newsroom, a Black man named Joe Boyce during the late sixties. There was another before him, Boyce told me. A man who wrote the "Negro News" column but had to drop his column off at the guard desk because he was not allowed in the paper's newsroom.
Boyce, however, was not the first Black in the newsroom, he soon discovered upon his introduction, where he found another Black face: The newsroom's shoeshine man.
When I arrived in 1989, there was still a shoeshine man, walking through the Trib newsroom, dropping to his knees during deadline, giving white editors and reporters a good shine. I always imagined that is the position that many of our colleagues believed Black reporters deemed as unqualified incapable affirmative action hires who couldn't be their equal or superior were more suited.
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I vowed to never internalize their disrespect. To trust God and journalism. And to keep reporting while Black.
A N.Y. Times editor during my job interview once remarked, "You have some great feature stories here, but can you write hard news?"