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Lowe, Herbert

Herbert Lowe

1962–

Journalist, organization executive

Reporter Herbert Lowe has been one of the most visible young African-American journalists in the United States. His journalism career has taken him from small-city newspapers to a court reporting beat at Newsday in the nation's largest market, New York City. He earned wide attention for a series of articles about men who had been erroneously convicted of murder. As president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) from 2003 to 2005, Lowe became a high-profile advocate for increased African-American representation in American newsrooms, and his keen focus on specific issues did much to revitalize an organization that had been losing membership and influence in the years before his presidency.

One of six children born to a single mother, Lowe was a native of Camden, New Jersey, outside of Philadelphia. His journalistic training took place at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he completed the requirements for a double major in broadcast journalism and political science, and also found time to serve as president of a group of black journalism students. He graduated from Marquette in 1984. After finishing school he worked for the Milwaukee Community Journal and for Amateur Sports magazine. Moving on to newspaper news staff jobs, he retained an enthusiasm for the sports teams of his native Philadelphia area.

Landing jobs at the Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then the larger Bergen County Record, Lowe became president of the Garden State Association of Black Journalists. He moved on to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Virginia, where he received an unusual honor of a sort: the chairman of the Portsmouth, Virginia, school board, on hearing that Lowe would be leaving for a new job, adjourned a meeting with the statement (as quoted in a letter to the Virginian-Pilot) that "Mr. Lowe's coverage of the activities and endeavors of Portsmouth Public Schools has always been fair and accurate. I am sure that we have not heard the last of him or of his successes." While in Virginia, Lowe served as adjunct professor at Norfolk State University.

Lowe moved on to the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1993. There he honed his journalistic chops on a variety of stories and assignments, "from the Miss America Pageant to political campaigns, from senseless murders to small-town festivals, from profiling civic advocates to exposing greedy developers," according to his NABJ biography. In 1995 he was elected NABJ secretary, and he won reelection in 1997. Two years later he became the organization's vice president for print publications. His assignments that year included a profile of Philadelphia mayoral candidate Dwight Evans and coverage of a city council meeting in his hometown of Camden that erupted into shouted attacks and shoving matches.

In February of 2000, Lowe took a staff writing position at Newsday in Queens, New York. The following year, he ran for the NABJ presidency but lost to Atlanta radio reporter Condace Pressley. His specific assignment at Newsday was the Queens court system, but he used that assignment to explore an issue of national significance: while covering a death-penalty trial in 2002, he joined with other reporters on a story, "The Wronged Men," that dealt with the situations of prisoners wrongfully convicted of murder. The story won a Griot award from the New York Association of Black Journalists (the organization's highest award) and became a finalist for a Deadline Club Award, presented by the New York chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.

Supporters urged Lowe to run again for the NABJ presidency, and in 2003 he was elected. The organization he took over had a $2 million budget, but it had been mired in financial problems and losing membership for several years. "Someone once told me that NABJ has steadfastly refused to live up to its potential," Lowe observed ruefully to Errin Haines of the NABJ Journal. "I want to prove them wrong. We're not going to be able to do everything, but we're going to try to make a difference." Among the goals he articulated to Haines were these: "I want it to be said that during this administration we relieved ourselves of the perception that we are a one-week-a-year association and became a year-round association. That we once again began fighting for black journalists and shining a light on black journalists."

Lowe worked to address both specific and systemic issues related to newsroom diversity. A study of the Washington, D.C. press corps carried out during his presidency revealed that minority journalists (Americans of Asian, African, Hispanic, or Native American descent) made up less than 12 percent of Washington reporters, a poor showing compared with the more than 30 percent of the nation's population these groups represented. "The numbers generated by this survey," Lowe was quoted as saying in the Washington Post, "quantify what black journalists have always known—that we don't get to cover some of the most coveted beats in our profession, the ones that involve coverage of the most pressing issues affecting our country overall and our communities." Lowe also stepped up recruitment efforts directed at promising high school and college black journalists, and he tried to address a trend that saw black journalists leave the profession for better-paying academic or public relations jobs after becoming frustrated about their prospects for advancement.

The issue of professional development was an important one for Lowe. "Yes, they [publishing executives] value diversity, yes they value us, but do they give us an opportunity to lead and achieve?" Lowe asked Martin C. Evans of Newsday. "Until we get the offices with the glass windows, we will be dependent on others to do the right thing." Black journalists responded to Lowe's initiatives with a new level of commitment to the NABJ. The organization's membership rose from about 3,100 to more than 4,000 during Lowe's two-year term as president. In 2004 he was named one of Ebony magazine's 100+ Most Influential Black Americans, and he maintained his place on the list the following year.

After he stepped down from the NABJ presidency in 2005, Lowe remained busy with other organizational posts. In 2003 he had joined the board of UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., a pan-ethnic minority journalists' group, and its convention in Washington in August of 2004, drawing 8,100 delegates, was said to be the largest journalistic gathering in American history. His activities for 2006 included a guest speaker slot at a meeting of the World Journalism Institute. Lowe lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Mira, an editor at Newsday.

At a Glance …

Born in 1962 in Camden, NJ; married, Mira (newspaper editor). Education: Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, BA, political science and broadcast journalism, 1984. Religion: Christian.

Career: Reporting posts, Amateur Sports magazine, Milwaukee Community Journal, Press (Atlantic City, MJ), Record (Bergen County, MJ), Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA); Philadelphia Inquirer, reporter, 1993–2000; Newsday, New York, 2000–.

Selected memberships: National Association of Black Journalists, secretary, 1995–99; vice president, print publications, 1999–2001; president, 2003–05; UNITY Journalists of Color, board member; Garden State Association of Black Journalists, past president; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity; New York Association of Black Journalists.

Selected awards: Griot award, New York Association of Black Journalists, for series "The Wronged Men."

Addresses: Office—Newsday, Inc., 235 Pinelawn Rd, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

Sources

Periodicals

Ebony, October 2004, p. 28.

NABJ Journal, Winter 2004, p. 10.

Newsday (Melville, NY), August 9, 2004, p. A16.

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 29, 1996, p. A1; March 7, 1999, p. A1.

Sacramento Observer, September 19, 2001, p. G2.

Sun (Baltimore, MD), December 13, 2004, p. C2.

Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk), June 6, 1993, p. 13.

Washington Post, August 5, 2004, p. C4.

On-line

"Biography: Herbert Lowe," National Association of Black Journalists, www.nabj.org/pres_corner/story/576p-817c.html (March 29, 2006).

"Herbert Lowe, Newsday," World Journalism Institute, www.worldji.com/speakers.asp?speaker_id=16 (March 29, 2006).

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