Today and throughout February, I am posting brief excerpts from my upcoming memoir, “Coming Full Circle — From Jim Crow to Journalism.”
In 1973, the universe of black journalists working in mainstream media was small. Some of the larger white newspapers, as we called them back then, were just starting to think about looking for black newsroom staff members. The pool of trained black journalists would come from the black press or the small number of black colleges that were starting journalism departments.
In those days, the more informed newsroom recruiters knew to reach out to professors at schools like Howard University, Clark College, Florida A&M University and a hand full of other places of higher education that had the foresight to know that newsrooms needed black journalists who had classroom instruction and experience with internships and campus media.
After the civil unrest during the Civil Rights Movement, which black newspapers — mostly weeklies — covered in major cities, some black journalists were convinced by white newspapers to jump over from the black press. But that pool was small, not nearly enough to fill the increasing desire for talent in mainstream media organizations.
As a student at Spelman majoring in English, I was lucky to be able to take journalism classes at Clark College, even though I could not declare journalism as my major.
The legendary Elsie Carper was a long-time administrative editor and newsroom recruiter at The Post. She had worked the small minority network of newsroom professionals and called me a few times when I was in Providence, asking if I would consider coming to Washington to do a one-week tryout for The Post’s copy desk. A good recruiter calls from time to time, to catch up with potential hires and to let them know they are still interested bringing candidates in for an interview. Carper was a good recruiter.
“I thought you were going to let me know when you were ready to make a change and leave Providence. I just heard that you are in Miami now. What happened?”
Next: “Don’t go to the beach,” they told us.