The newsrooms throughout America make it necessary for various African American online, print, and radio news outlets like the Electronic Urban Report (EUR), The Root, The Grio, the Chicago Defender, the Afro American, Michael Baisden’s show, Tom Joyner, and many others to exist. The diversity that is necessary to tell the stories of the nation’s diverse community is still not present in the newsrooms of America.
But Simeon Booker helped change all of that by diversifying the Washington Post in 1952, as their first full-time African American reporter. Last month, Booker was recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists with their highest honor by induction into the organization’s Hall of Fame. According to the NABJ, the recognition is giving to “a media executive who has demonstrated a commitment to diversifying the nation’s newsrooms and improving the coverage of people and communities of color.”
In 1952, the Civil Rights Movement had not begun and Booker put his life on the line by essentially going behind enemy lines to cover stories. According to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms, Booker wrote in his memoir “Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement,” to be published in May:
“Looking back, I give [publisher] Phil Graham credit. He hired me. The newspaper may or may not have been ready. They had no standards or policies regarding the integration of their ranks, such as the military had developed. If it was a social experiment, I think I passed the test — although it damn near killed me.”
Booker is best known in the role he played as the Johnson Publishing Company’s Washington Bureau Chief. He would retire from this position after 50 years of service. He wrote a column in Jet called Ticker Tape, which covered the “White House and Congress.” Now 94, Booker is to be applauded for dedicating his life to telling our stories.
We salute you Mr. Simeon Booker. Thank you. Check out his story below.