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Tucker, Cynthia

Tucker, Cynthia

1955—

Journalist

Cynthia Tucker forged a name for herself as a fearless social and political commentator. Her "courageous and clear-headed columns," according to the Prize committee, won Tucker a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Tucker, whose syndicated column appears in nearly 50 newspapers across the country, became, in 1991, the first black woman to edit the editorial page of a major daily newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also appears frequently as a commentator or panelist on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) program, as well as on CNN and Company. Tucker has reported from Africa and Central America, touring African nations for six months in 1983. She has tackled national politics, crime, and education, as well as covering local government. She feels it is her job to criticize people and institutions when they need to be criticized. In doing so, she told George, she hopes to help create a South that is "more tolerant, progressive, [and] accepting of different lifestyles and points of view." An avowed liberal, Tucker noted, "Liberals were the ones who were against slavery…the ones who supported the vote for women, [and] who supported the civil rights movement."

Shaped by Experience

Tucker was born in 1955, in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was principal of the town's all-black middle school. Issues of race shaped everyday living in the small town, which also served as the setting for author Harper Lee's famous novel about race relations entitled To Kill a Mockingbird. Tucker told of a formative experience in George revolving around the fact that the local ice cream parlor required blacks to order from a side window rather than from where whites ordered. Her father's objections led her to never have ice cream, perhaps a tough cross for a child to bear.

Slow as it was, progress did reach the small town, however. When an integrated middle school was finally manifested in 1970, the white community fully stood behind Tucker's father, asking him to head up the new school. A witness to the positive changes that can take place in people's hearts and minds, Tucker's experiences in her hometown led her to question the values, ideals, and priorities of society-at-large and would eventually lead to her reputation as a journalist unafraid to speak up strongly and to examine issues that others might avoid.

A graduate of Auburn University in Alabama, Tucker joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) newspapers, the most respected news-oriented publication of the South, in 1976. Tucker initially worked as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal, then took a similar job at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before returning to the Journal as a columnist and editorial writer. There Tucker pricked Atlanta's conscience by asking about long-held myths of race and class in the United States—a subject she would bring up again and again. For example, on July 21, 1996, Tucker acknowledged in her column, "Race is still the subtext of the Southern story, still the recurring thread woven throughout its tapestry. If you are looking for a redeemed South of racial progress, you can find it. If you are looking for raw and venomous racism you can find that, too."

In 1988, Tucker was one of 12 U.S. journalists to receive a Harvard University Nieman Fellowship. Her studies concentrated on economics, trade, and how fiscal policy is made and on South America and the Caribbean. Her schoolwork did not keep Tucker from keeping close tabs on her home base. Tucker continued to write for The Atlanta Constitution, addressing such topics the lack of support for public transportation despite lip service to the effect that it was deemed important to Atlantans. Tucker asked of her readers, "What is the secret to converting the public consensus to public habit?" She also discussed public housing problems, wondering, "How could [the Atlanta Housing Authority] have more vacant units than families on its waiting list?"

Inspired by Politics

National politics and politicians are a favorite subject of Tucker's. In 1989, when L. DouglasWilder became the nation's first elected black governor in Virginia, Tucker wrote, "Mr. Wilder has apparently overcome the color question…. [He] has now provided a guidebook to other candidates of color who wish to serve beyond their traditional constituencies." The previous year she had suggested that candidates Michael Dukakis and George Bush had only allowed childcare to become a key presidential election issue because changing voting demographics forced it to be so. In other words, she believed both men only pretended to be concerned with the issue.

By 1990, after she had completed her fellowship, Tucker was promoted to editorial page editor of The Atlanta Constitution, along with colleague James Wooten. Editor Ron Martin stated, "Both Cynthia Tucker and Jim Wooten are natives of the South and have both observed and participated in the evolution of their newspapers and the South itself." In 1993, Tucker was named as the nation's top columnist by the National Women's Political Caucus, which recognizes outstanding coverage of women and politics, and received their Exceptional Merit Media Award in New York City.

In 1994, Tucker's position and voice resulted in an invitation to be a guest panelist—along with Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell; Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairperson Mary Margaret Oliver; and Werner Rogers, superintendent of the Georgia school system—for the Georgia Public Television feature, Violence: The Rage Around Us, a collaborative effort of Georgia Public Television, Cable News Network (CNN), and numerous Georgia television stations. Washington anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, Judy Woodruff, who once hosted a weekly show, Georgia Forum, moderated the program which included two hundred people from all corners of Georgia in a town hall format. Tucker went on to become a regular participant on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and CNN and Company.

At a Glance …

Born Cynthia Anne Tucker, March 13, 1955, in Monroeville, AL; daughter of John Abney Tucker (a middle school principal) and Mary Louise Marshall Tucker; divorced. Education: Auburn University, BA, 1976.

Career:

The Atlanta Journal, reporter, 1976-80; The Philadelphia Inquirer, reporter, 1980-82; The Atlanta Journal, editorial writer, columnist, 1983-86; The Atlanta Constitution, associate editorial page editor, 1986-91, editorial page editor, 1992-.

Memberships:

National Association of Black Journalists; National Association of Minority Media Executives; American Society of Newspaper Editors; The International Media Women's Foundation, board of directors; Poynter Institute, advisory board.

Awards:

Nieman Fellow, Harvard University, 1988-89; Exceptional Merit Media Award, National Women's Political Caucus, 1993; Elijah Lovejoy Award, 2005; National Association of Black Journalists, Journalist of the Year, 2006; Pulitzer Prize, 2007.

Addresses:

Web—www.ajc.com.

Meanwhile, Tucker's editorials concerning political issues continued to provoke. During a NewsHour interview before the 1996 presidential election, Jim Lehrer asked Tucker about the Georgian perspective. Unafraid to chastise her own state, Tucker quipped, "I don't think very many Georgians are paying any attention. Atlanta, as you know, is in the middle of a [Major League baseball] World Series." Though she truly felt that voters were more interested in the outcome of a sporting event than the election, she went on to explain that many seemed to have made up their minds not to care after the negative campaign ads of both Senator Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton. When Georgia's first black congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, started her campaign for re-election, Tucker scathingly remarked, "McKinney has allowed her campaign to sink into a morass of race-baiting, name-calling, and anti-Semitism. These unfortunate tactics could not only cost her re-election but also set back the cause of biracial politics in the South."

Provoked Thought

That type of commentary has shown that when Cynthia Tucker writes, she will say what she needs to say without worrying over stepped on toes. For example, on January 14, 1996, she accused Martin Luther King, Jr.'s family of seeking "to make King's memory a profit center, jealously guarding rights to his image and likeness, sometimes charging fees to those who wish to spread King's teachings by reprinting his speeches." On September 14, 1996, Tucker contended, after politician Dick Morris' family-values posturing was exposed as hypocrisy, "Politicians hungry for headlines cannot resist the chance to pose as defenders of the beleaguered family." And Tucker's May 4, 1997 column raved, "A booming economy makes it harder to castigate either legal or illegal immigrants for taking scarce American jobs. So we're now after the Mexicans for a different reason: our drug problem."

Not only does Tucker often give viewers questions to ponder, she also advocates thoroughly thinking over matters. During a NewsHour discussion, on February 19, 1996, Elizabeth Farnsworth asked about the effects of the major changes in Georgia's welfare system. Tucker replied, "Many voters [t]here—black and white by the way—wanted welfare reform. They were sick of the generational dependency it seemed to create, but I don't think people have thought about the long-term. What happens once the economy goes sour? Does that mean that those families then end up on the streets and their children hungry?" Similarly, Tucker's February 19, 1996 column opined, "It is no longer color that matters most, but class. And class, as it turns out, matters more than it used to."

A favorite Tucker approach is singling out an individual's behavior to make a larger point, such as when professional basketball player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the national anthem before games. After insisting, "Let's not make this guy a hero. He has smeared Islam by suggesting that his protest was religious. And he has disrespected a nation that has allowed him the freedom to grow rich by playing a game," Tucker concluded in a 1996 column, "In this season, we might instead praise the countless African-American teachers, tutors, and coaches who dedicate untold hours to teaching young black men and women that scholarship is more important than sports, and that heroes don't have to be over 6 feet tall."

Tucker has done her own community-based, praise-deserving part. She has served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross, the International Media Women's Foundation, and Families First—a Democratic Party-inspired organization that is dedicated to bettering the lives of children and their families. Tucker has also served on the advisory board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida, an institute for teaching aspiring media leaders. As Tucker's column continues to appear Sundays and Wednesdays in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her own words encapsulate her philosophy about her role as a journalist, "Critical thinking, after all, is at the core of a real education."

Tucker's career flourished as she exercised her own critical thinking in her work. Considered for the Pulitzer Prize in both 2004 and 2006, Tucker finally won, for commentary, in 2007. Among her competitors for the prize, she alone worked as both columnist and editor. The Prize Committee cited her columns "that evince a strong sense of morality and persuasive knowledge of the community" as reason for her win, according to James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. The ten columns responsible for Tucker's win served as telling examples of the fearless style she had cultivated over the years, as a sampling of the columns shows. In "US Leaders, racial epithets better unsaid," Tucker criticized former Democratic Representative for Georgia, Cynthia McKinney; in "Reserved but never reticent—She spoke out to honor MLK, fight bigotry," Tucker offered praise for Coretta Scott King; and in "Poor little big man's pity party—No reason to feel sorry for Campbell," Tucker offered a stinging critique of Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. What these and other writings by Tucker illustrate is her tenacious insistence that "facts matter," as she said in her acceptance speech for the Elijah Lovejoy award in 2005. "Indeed, access to reliable and verifiable information is one of the things that separates a rational functioning democracy from a dictatorship. In countries where there is no protection for free speech, rumors and misinformation are rife. Corrupt governments depend on ignorance and misunderstanding to perpetuate the dysfunctional climate in which they can exist," she added. This belief propelled Tucker's career, and as she told Richard Prince of the on-line journal Journal-isms, "I have a lot to write."

Sources

Books

Hornsby, Alton, Jr., Chronology of African-American History, Gale, 1991.

Periodicals

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 9, 1988, p. A23; April 13, 1988, p. A19; May 13, 1988, A12; August 3, 1988, p. A15; August 6, 1988, p. A23; December 22, 1991, p. A2; April 11, 1993, p. D3; January 5, 1994, p. A4; January 14, 1996; June 2, 1996, p. C7; July 21, 1996; September 4, 1996; September 15, 1996, p. R4; October 16, 1996; May 4, 1997, p. B5.

George, September 1996, p. 110.

Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2007, p. A1.

On-line

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, www.ajc.com/cox/ajc.htm (October 29, 1996).

"Cynthia Tucker Wins Pulitzer," Maynard Institute, Journal-isms,www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince/070416_prince (June 1, 2007).

"Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award: 2005 Fellow Cynthia Tucker," Colby College, www.colby.edu/lovejoy/recipients/tucker_r.shtml (June 1, 2007).

Online NewsHour,www.pbs.org/newshour/ (June 1, 2007).

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"Tucker, Cynthia." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Tucker, Cynthia." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tucker-cynthia

Tucker, Cynthia 1955–

Cynthia Tucker 1955

Journalist

At a Glance

Took on Politicians

Georgia on Her Mind

Practiced What She Preached

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

In 1991, Cynthia Tucker, whose syndicated column appears in nearly 40 newspapers across the country, became the first black woman to edit the editorial page of a major daily newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution. She can also frequently be seen as a commentator or panelist on Jim Lehr-ers NewsHour, a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) program, as well as on CNN and Company. Tucker has reported from Africa and Central America, touring African nations for six months in 1983. She has tackled national politics, crime, and education, as well as covering local government. She feels it is her job to criticize people and institutions when they need to be criticized. In doing so, she told George, she hopes to help forge a South that is more tolerant, progressive, [and] accepting of different lifestyles and points of view. An avowed liberal, Tucker noted, Liberals were the ones who were against slavery... the ones who supported the vote for women, [and] who supported the civil rights movement.

Tucker was born in 1955, in Monroeville, Alabama. Her father was principal of the towns all-black middle school. Issues of race shaped everyday living in the small town, which also served as the setting for author Harper Lees famous novel about race relations entitled To Kill a Mockingbird. Tucker told of a formative experience in George revolving around the fact that the local ice cream parlor required blacks to order from a side window rather than from where whites ordered. Her fathers objections led her to never have ice cream, perhaps a tough cross for a child to bear.

Slow as it was, progress did reach the small town, however. When an integrated middle school was finally manifested in 1970, the white community fully stood behind Tuckers father, asking him to head up the new school. A witness to the positive changes that can take place in peoples hearts and minds, Tuckers experiences in her hometown led her to question the values, ideals, and priorities of society-at-large and would eventually lead to her reputation as a journalist unafraid to speak up strongly and to examine issues that others might avoid.

A graduate of Auburn University in Alabama, Tucker joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) newspapers in 1976, the most respected news-oriented publication of the South. Tucker initially worked as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal, then took a similar job at the Philadelphia Inquirer, before returning to the

At a Glance

Born Cynthia Anne Tucker, March 13, 1955, in Monroeville, AL; daughter of John Abney Tucker (a middle school principal) and Mary Louise Marshall Tucker; divorced.Education: Auburn University, B.A., 1976.

The Atlanta Journal, reporter, 1976-80; The Philadelphia Inquirer, reporter, 1980-82;The Atlanta Journal, editorial writer, columnist, 1983-86; The Atlanta Constitution, associate editorial page editor, 1986-91, editorial page editor, 1992.

Selected awards: Nieman Fellow, Harvard University, 1988-89; Exceptional Merit Media Award, National Womens Political Caucus, 1993.

Member: National Association of Black Journalists; National Association of Minority Media Executives; American Society of Newspaper Editors; The International Media Womens Foundation, board of directors; Poynter Institute, advisory board.

Addresses: Office -Editorial Page Editor, The Atlanta Constitution, 75 Marietta St., Atlanta, CA 30303, (404) 526-5084.

Journal as a columnist and editorial writer. There Tucker pricked Atlantas conscience by asking about long-held myths of race and class in the United States--a subject she would bring up again and again. For example, on July 21, 1996, Tucker acknowledged in her column, Race is still the subtext of the Southern story, still the recurring thread woven throughout its tapestry. If you are looking for a redeemed South of racial progress, you can find it. If you are looking for raw and venomous racism you can find that, too.

In 1988, Tucker was one of 12 U.S. journalists to receive a Harvard University Nieman Fellowship. Her studies concentrated on economics, trade, andhowfiscal policy is madeand on South America and the Caribbean. Her school work did not keep Tucker from keeping close tabs on her home base. Tucker continued to write for The Atlanta Constitution, addressing such topics the lack of support for public transportation despite lipservice to the effect that it was deemed important to Atlantans. Tucker asked of her readers, What is the secret to converting the public consensus to public habit? She also discussed public housing problems, wondering, How could [the Atlanta Housing Authority] have more vacant units than families on its waiting list?

Took on Politicians

National politics and politicians are a favorite subject of Tuckers. In 1989, when L. Douglas Wilder became the nations first elected black governor in Virginia, Tucker wrote, Mr. Wilder has apparently overcome the color question.... [He] has now provided a guidebook to other candidates of color who wish to serve beyond their traditional constituencies. The previous year she had suggested that candidates Michael Dukakis and George Bush had only allowed child care to become a key presidential election issue because changing voting demographics forced it to be so. In other words, she believed both men only pretended to be concerned with the issue.

By 1990, after she had completed her fellowship, Tucker was promoted to editorial page editor of The Atlanta Constitution, along with colleague James Wooten. Editor Ron Martin stated, Both Cynthia Tucker and Jim Wooten are natives of the South and have both observed and participated in the evolution of their newspapers and the South itself. In 1993, Tucker was named as the nations top columnist by the National Womens Political Caucus, which recognizes outstanding coverage of women and politics, and received their Exceptional Merit Media Award in New York City.

In 1994, Tuckers position and voice resulted in an invitation to be a guest panelist-along with Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell; Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairperson Mary Margaret Oliver; and Werner Rogers, superintendent of the Georgia school systemfor the Georgia Public Television feature, Violence: The Rage Around Us, a collaborative effort of Georgia Public Television, Cable News Network (CNN), and numerous Georgia television stations. Washington anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, Judy Woodruff, who once hosted a weekly show, Georgia Forum, moderated the program which included two hundred people from all corners of George in a town hall format. Tucker went on to become a regular participant on Jim Lehrers NewsHour and CNN and Company.

Georgia on Her Mind

Meanwhile, Tuckers editorials concerning political issues continued to provoke. During a NewsHour interview before the 1996 presidential election, Jim Lehrer asked Tucker about the Georgian perspective. Unafraid to chastise her own state, Tucker quipped, I dont think very many Georgians are paying any attention. Atlanta, as you know, is in the middle of a [Major League baseball] World Series. Though she truly felt that voters were more interested in the outcome of a sporting event than the election, she went on to explain that many seemed to have made up their minds not to care after the negative campaign ads of both Senator Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton. When Georgias first black congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney, started her campaign for re-election, Tucker scathingly remarked, McKinney has allowed her campaign to sink into a morass of race-baiting, name-calling, and anti-semitism. These unfortunate tactics could not only cost her re-election but also set back the cause of biracial politics in the South.

That type of commentary has shown that when Cynthia Tucker writes, she will say what she needs to say without worrying over stepped on toes. For example, on January 14, 1996, she accused Martin Luther King, Jr.s family of seeking to make Kings memory a profit center, jealously guarding rights to his image and likeness, sometimes charging fees to those who wish to spread Kings teachings by reprinting his speeches. On September 14, 1996, Tucker contended, after politician Dick Morris family-values posturing was exposed as hypocrisy, Politicians hungry for headlines cannot resist the chance to pose as defenders of the beleaguered family. And Tuckers May 4, 1997 column raved, A booming economy makes it harder to castigate either legal or illegal immigrants for taking scarce American jobs. So were now after the Mexicans for a different reason: our drug problem.

Not only does Tucker often give viewers questions to ponder, she also advocates thoroughly thinking over matters. During a NewsHourdiscussion, on February 19, 1996, Elizabeth Farnsworth asked about the effects of the major changes in Georgias welfare system. Tucker replied, Many voters [t]here~black and white by the way--wanted welfare reform. They were sick of the generational dependency it seemed to create, but I dont think people have thought about the long-term. What happens once the economy goes sour? Does that mean that those families then end up on the streets and their children hungry? Similarly, Tuckers February 19, 1996 column opined, It is no longer color that matters most, but class. And class, as it turns out, matters more than it used to.

Practiced What She Preached

A favorite Tucker approach is singling out an individuals behavior to make a larger point, such as when professional basketball player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the national anthem before games. After insisting, Lets not make this guy a hero. He has smeared Islam by suggesting that his protest was religious. And he has disrespected a nation that has allowed him the freedom to grow rich by playing a game, Tucker concluded in a 1996 column, In this season, we might instead praise the countless African American teachers, tutors, and coaches who dedicate untold hours to teaching young black men and women that scholarship is more important than sports, and that heroes dont have to be over 6 feet tall.

Tucker has done her own community-based, praise-deserving part. She has served on the board of directors of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross, the International Media Womens Foundation, and Families First-a Democratic Party-inspired organization that is dedicated to bettering the lives of children and their families. Tucker has also served on the advisory board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida, an institute for teaching aspiring media leaders. As Tuckers column continues to appear Sundays and Wednesdays in the Atlanta Constitution, her own words encapsulate her philosophy about her role as a journalist, Critical thinking, after all, is at the core of a real education.

Sources

Books

Hornsby, Alton, Jr.,Chronology of African-American History, Gale, 1991.

Periodicals

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 9, 1988, p. A23; April 13, 1988, p. A19; May 13, 1988, A12; August 3, 1988, p. A15; August 6, 1988, p. A23; December 22, 1991, p. A2; April 11, 1993, p. D3; January 5, 1994, p. A4; January 14,1996; June 2, 1996, p. C7; July 21, 1996; September 4, 1996; September 15, 1996, p. R4; October 16, 1996; May 4, 1997, p. B5.

George, September 1996, p. 110.

Other

Additional information obtained from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 29, 1996, http//www.ajc.com/cox/ajc.htm; Online commentary by Taube, John A., in response to column, San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1996, http://members.gnn.com/JTaube9821/tucker.html; Online NewsHour, October 23, 1996, and March 25, 1997, http://wwwl.pbs.org/newshour/focusl.html.

Eileen Daily

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tucker, Cynthia 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Tucker, Cynthia 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tucker-cynthia-1955

"Tucker, Cynthia 1955–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/tucker-cynthia-1955