How racism at the L.A. Times shaped my journalism career

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As a journalist and an academic, I am reluctant to write first-person pieces. However, as I read the mea culpa series concerning the Los Angeles Times’ history of racism in its coverage and hiring practices, I am compelled to tell my experience as someone who grew up reading the newpsaper, and someone who experienced its racism up close.

a close up of a book: A graphic in the June 12, 1981, edition of the L.A. Times, with a story that advanced racist attitudes about the city's Black and Latino communities. (Los Angeles Times)

© (Los Angeles Times)
A graphic in the June 12, 1981, edition of the L.A. Times, with a story that advanced racist attitudes about the city’s Black and Latino communities. (Los Angeles Times)

Journalism is in my blood. My father was the political cartoonist at the Los Angeles Sentinel, which for decades was the largest-circulated African American newspaper west of the Mississippi River. During his more than 40-year career, he was thrice named political cartoonist of the year by the National Newspaper Publishers Assn., the Black press trade group. Over the years, my father and The Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Paul Conrad, became friends.


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In high school I edited the campus paper and covered high school sports for the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. I also wrote a weekly general interest column for the Sentinel. In college, I was managing editor of the paper at Los Angeles City College and went on the become a staff writer for the newspaper at Cal State Los Angeles. It was there that Paul Scott, the venerable journalism department chairman, recommended my employment at The Times and other Southern California newspapers. Scott had been highly successful at gaining reporting jobs for his top graduating students.

However, a few days before my graduation, Scott called me into his office to deliver the news that “no one wants a colored reporter.” In particular, the L.A. Times told him they “already had one.”

But my relationship with


VCU eyes requiring racism course for all students

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RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Commonwealth University is considering whether to make courses on racism a requirement for its students.

Constance Relihan, dean of VCU’s University College, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that many other colleges are having the same discussion as protests over racial injustice sweep across the U.S.

“We’re at a good moment to see that this is something we really need to address,” Relihan said.

VCU offers a major in African American studies and has classes in other departments that address the history and implications of racism. But they aren’t part of the university’s required curriculum.

VCU has been revising its general education requirements over the past two years. Relihan said she hopes a decision on whether to require racism classes will be made by the end of the current semester.

“If we’re going to address this issue, we want to do it well, and we want to do it deeply,” Relihan said.

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