Race and the Journalist: Gerald Boyd’s ‘My Times in Black and White’
Feb 4th, 2010 | By admin | Category: News
Robin D. Stone, the widow of former New York Times Managing Editor Gerald M. Boyd, kept her word. At a memorial I attended in New York after his death from lung cancer in 2006, she said she would ensure that a memoir he had left behind would be published.
And so it has. “My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times,” just released this week, is a vivid portrayal of the man and the journalist. The depiction is more than just a recitation of the well-known facts. It is highly personal, damning in its observations of some of his former colleagues and powerful in its insights into the perils of being successful and black.
It is, in short, an eye-opener, recounting how Boyd ultimately was made to feel that nothing he did, or could do, was ever enough to overcome racial attitudes.
I witnessed Boyd’s talent, commitment and professionalism first-hand — as one of his reporters when he was Metro editor and as part of the team he led to produce the Pulitzer Prize-winning series “How Race Is Lived in America” — but I didn’t realize how little I had known him until I read his book. I didn’t know about a childhood marked by stark poverty and the firm parenting of a loving grandmother. Or about his radical college years at the University of Missouri, where he fought for equality for black students under the nom de guerre “Uganda X.”
With his Hermes ties and quiet demeanor by the time I met him in the early 1990s, Boyd looked to me more like the newspaper executive he would become than the rabble-rouser he had been.
But I was keenly aware of his trailblazing. He had accomplished a lot of “firsts” as an African-American in his college years and early newspaper career and he continued that tradition at the Times, where he was White House correspondent before he began his ascent up the management ladder to the masthead and to the second most powerful position in the newsroom.
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