Drummond, William J. 1944–
William J. Drummond 1944–
History has shown that American journalism has often represented views that are void of diversity. Yet some journalists have stood as a voice for millions of minorities whose cries have been muffled; one of those journalists is William J. Drummond. Though his name may not ring a bell to the masses, his controversial and sometimes unrepented stances on social issues and current affairs have often sparked dialog in his hometown of Oakland, California, and beyond. Still it is his upstanding character that has earned him the respect of his peers and the community. A career journalist and university professor, Drummond’s genuine concern for community and his passion for journalism have penetrated his pores and overflowed to his readers, listeners, and students.
Drummond was born in Oakland, California, on September 29, 1944, to Jack Martin, a carpenter, and Mary Drummond, a machinist. After high school, Drummond pursued higher education, opting to stay close to home. He attended the University of California-Berkeley, and in 1965, received his B.A. degree, graduating with honors. Drummond then headed east to Columbia University. A year later, he graduated with honors, having obtained his M.S. degree. Drummond began a journalism career as a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, but in 1967, he returned to the West Coast, where he became a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times.
An eager Drummond learned a lasting lesson early in his career at the Los Angeles Times. “In 1967 when I was a brand-new reporter at the Los Angeles Times,” he was quoted as saying in his “What We Teach” essay—printed on the UC Berkeley journalism webpage, “Assistant Managing Editor Leonard Riblett asked me what my ambition was. Without hesitation I said I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. Riblett snorted, ‘There are some real good stories within an hour of downtown.’”
While Drummond followed Riblett’s advice and found value in local stories, he also fulfilled his dream to travel abroad. He completed stints as bureau chief in New Delhi, India, from 1971-74 and in Jerusalem, Israel, from 1974-76, covering stories like the liberation of Bangladesh and India’s first atomic explosion. During this time, Drummond expanded his academic interests by completing post-graduate work in economics at UCLA. On the home front, Drummond covered stories like the West Coast Black Power movement and the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
In the late 1970s Drummond’s work with the Los Angeles Times took him to the nation’s capitol, where he served as a staff writer for the Washington Bureau. While in Washington, D.C., Drummond took a brief leave from the Los Angeles Times to accept the position of special assistant at the U.S. Department of State. He was also White House associate press secretary to former President Jimmy Carter.
In 1979 Drummond became an editor for the National Public Radio (NPR) network, which ignited his commitment
At a Glance…
Born William Joe Drummond on September 29, 1944, in Oakland, CA; son of jack Martin (a carpenter) and Mary Louise (a machinist) Drummond; married Faye Boykin (a teacher), June 22, 1962; children: Tammerlin, Sean. Education: University of California, Berkeley, BA, 1965; Columbia University, MS, 1966.
Career: The Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY, staff writer, 1966-67; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, staff writer, 1967-70, assistant metropolitan editor, 1970-71, bureau chief in New Delhi, India, 1971-74, bureau chief in Jerusalem, Israel, 1974-76, staff writer for Washington Bureau, 1977-79; White House Fellow, special assistant to the deputy secretary of state and later as associate press secretary to President Carter, 1976-77; National Public Radio, correspondent, 1979-83, special correspondent, 1983; University of California, Berkeley, professor of journalism, 1983-, Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecturer, 1963,
Awards: Journalism award, Vision Magazine, 1966; Edward M. Hood Award for excellence in diplomatic correspondence, National Press Club, Washington, DC, 1982; Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for Journalism Excellence, 1986; Award for Outstanding Coverage of the Black Condition, National Association of Black Journalists, 1989; Roy W. Howard Award, Scripps Howard Foundation, 1991; Excellence in Journalism Award, Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter, 1994.
Address; Office —University of California-Berkeley, 121 North Gate Hall, #5860, Berkeley, CA 94720-5860.
to preserving the essence of public radio. Drummond, who later likened public radio to a “vanishing rain forest,” was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying: “Across this nation, the former havens of free speech and free-form programming have allowed money changers into the temple of 80 to 90 megahertz (the far-left end of your radio turning dial). Alas, community radio now has more to do with Hart & Schaffner than Marx, more to do with Jacuzzis than j’accuse!”
In 1983 Drummond made a transition back into the classroom—this time as a professor at the University of California-Berkeley. His career change marked the beginning of many opportunities to develop as an instructor over the course of two decades. At the university, Drummond has been afforded the unique opportunity to draw some of his own concerns into the classroom by teaching not only traditional journalism, but also innovative topics like Race and Media, as well as Journalism and Sexuality. Still, Drummond’s main concern is communicating lessons learned to his students, like the one taught to him early in his career by Leonard Riblett.
“A very important part of journalism is still the coverage of local news and communities. As newspapers have become more concentrated in ownership, they look at readers only in terms of their disposable income. In so doing, they often lose touch with the things that people really care about in their everyday lives. The way to remedy that problem is to teach students the value of getting out in the real world and reporting from the world that’s around us,” he wrote in his “What We Teach” essay.
One way Drummond sought to show students that news is in their own backyard was through orchestrating a 15-week project in 1998, that allowed journalism school students at the University of California-Berkeley to learn all about community reporting. Each student was assigned to cover one of Oakland’s City Council districts by becoming a part of the community he or she was covering. The students learned the concerns of the citizens and published stories in a supplement of the Oakland Post called “Inside Oakland.” “The Community Reporting class in many ways symbolized the new direction the school has taken. It was a collaboration with news media in the real world. It gave students an audience for their work. The class filled a void in news coverage that the corporate, mainstream media have been unable or unwilling to fill,” Drummond wrote in his “What We Teach” essay.
In addition to teaching, Drummond freelanced in print and radio. Some of his major projects have been the production of numerous radio documentaries that are distributed through NPR. The documentaries range in topic from prostate cancer, to coastal erosion, to federal welfare reform legislation for Native Americans.
Forty years into his journalism career, Drummond continued to speak out on the issues of his community. When the Ebonics debate was brewing in Oakland, he was ready and willing to share his opinion. “If we could wave a magic wand and make every black child in the public schools start talking like an Oxford don, would that solve the problems of poverty, discrimination and underachievement? Furthermore, what unintended side effects about our identity would our magic trick introduce?” he wrote in his “Ebonics: What’s the Big Deal?” article, printed on the University of California-Berkeley American Cultures webpage.
Drummond’s journalistic awards include the National Press Club Foundation Award, the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for Journalism Excellence, and the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award for Outstanding Coverage of the Black Condition. Like the students in his “Inside Oakland” project, Drummond has proven himself a true voice for his community. His unselfish nature has opened doors for young people who want to be journalists. His bravery in reporting from his heart is a noble and often rare occurrence. His record demonstrates that as long as there is an Oakland, California, Drummond will be there to represent and uplift its people.
“Ebonics: What’s the Big Deal?,” published on the University of California at Berkeley American Cultures Archive page, www-learning.berkeley.edu/AC/archive/ebonics/drummond_talk.html.
“The Sell-Out of Public Radio,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 1996, p. A23.
“What We Teach,” published on the UC Berkeley, Journalism Faculty page, www.journalism.berkeley.edu/faculty/drummond.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 25, 1996, p A23.
“Civic Catalyst Articles,” Pew Center for Civic Journalism, www.pewcenter.org/doingcj/civiccat/displayCivcat.php?id=207 (May 23, 2003).
“Ebonics: What’s the Big Deal?” University of California at Berkeley American Cultures Archive page, www-learning.berkeley.edu/AC/archive/ebonics/drummond_talk.html (May 23, 2003).
UC Berkeley William J. Drummond home page, http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~jour200/ (May 23, 2003).
“What We Teach,” UC Berkeley, Journalism Faculty page, www.journalism.berkeley.edu/faculty/drummond (May 23, 2003).
“William Drummond,” Contemporary Authors Online, reproduced in Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (July 9, 2003).
—Shellie M. Saunders
"Drummond, William J. 1944–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/drummond-william-j-1944
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