Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Remembering Leroy Aarons: Pioneering Gay Journalist

Mr Aarons was a founder and former president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. The group was founded in 1989 in his Piedmont CA living room. It now has 1200 members with 24 chapters in the US, Canada, and Germany.

Leroy was born to Jewish Latvian inmigrant parents and grew up in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx, NY. After graduating from Columbia University with a degree in journalism, he began his career with the New Haven Journal-Courier and by the age of 27, became the city editor.

He covered Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign for the Washington Post, and was the reporter that informed Bobby of Dr. Martin Luther King's death. He also covered Kennedy's funeral.

He later left the Washington Post and for the next 7 years, took time off to work with minority journalists and spent some time in Isreal and was a freelance writer for Time magazine.

In 1983 he joined the Oakland Tribune and in his tenure as executive editor and senior vice president for news, the paper won a 1989 Pulitzer Prize for its photo coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area.

He left the Tribune in 1991, pursuing various projects including writing a book, "Prayers for Bobby" about a familing coping with the suicide of a gay son.

But the love of his life was the NLGJA. Young gay journalists looked up to him. He gave them "the courage to come out and also a sense of correctedness to one another that was simply moving".

In 2000, he conducted another survey of gay journalists. Now 91.5 percent of gay journalists were open in their workplace. However it also found that the day-to-day lives of gays and lesbians was still covered inadequately. How true.

I'm glad that Leroy lived to see we as gay men fighting for our right to have our relationships legally recognized. We need more Leroy's in the mass media to carry the torch and make gay issues more mainstream. By education and not scare tactics and scream headlines will our relationships be equally and legally accepted.

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