Prince, Richard E.
Richard E. Prince
Richard Everett Prince is a veteran journalist widely respected for his work as a reporter, editor, and columnist. Since 2002 he has devoted much of his time to an influential online column, Richard Prince's Journal-isms, focused on issues of diversity in the media. Jeanne Fox-Alston in Fusion magazine cited Journal-isms as a prime example of what she called Prince's "dogged, leave-no-stone-unturned" style.
Richard Everett Prince, the son of Jonathan Joseph and Audrey Elaine Prince, was born July 26, 1947, in New York City. While a student at New York University, he began working as a newspaper reporter, first for the Newark Star-Ledger in nearby New Jersey (1967-68) and then, starting in 1968, for the Washington Post, one of the most influential papers in the country. Among the stories he helped cover for the Post was a 1977 hostage drama involving twelve Muslim extremists who seized three prominent buildings in Washington, paralyzing the nation's capital for several days. More typical were his stories on the impact of street crime on daily life in Washington's neighborhoods. On February 25, 1977, for example, he wrote poignantly of the botched robbery of a small store in an impoverished area. Several weeks later (April 5, 1977), he described the determination of a small business owner to reopen his clothing store after a devastating act of arson. Prince also wrote frequently about education and local government.
In 1972 Prince joined six other African-American reporters in filing a landmark complaint against the Post with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The group, which came to be known as the Metro Seven, charged the Post with denying its African-American employees equal opportunity, particularly with regard to job assignments and promotions. While the EEOC's staff found reasonable cause to believe that discrimination existed, its commissioners declined to pursue the matter. Despite this ambiguous and, to the Metro Seven, disappointing conclusion, the case sparked a number of similar complaints against newspapers around the country. Many of these later complaints proved more successful.
After almost a decade at the Post, Prince left in 1977 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Two years later, however, he accepted a position as assistant metro editor at a newspaper in upstate New York, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, owned by the Gannett Company. He remained there for the next fifteen years, receiving a number of promotions. The first of these occurred in 1981, when he became assistant news editor, a post he held until 1985, when he became an editorial writer and columnist. Many of his columns between 1988 and 1994 were syndicated by the Gannett News Service, a division of the Gannett Company, for publication in other newspapers across the country. Prince thus began to reach a nationwide audience during the late 1980s. In one of his most memorable columns from this period (December 13, 1988), Prince described being pulled over by Seattle police officers at two A.M. and searched without a warrant. The harrowing experience, Prince wrote, was "reaffirmation that being black in America is a full-time job, no matter what one's perceived station."
In 1993 Prince was appointed the editor of the opinions-and-editorials, or "op-ed," page of the Democrat and Chronicle. He served in this capacity until the following year, when he left Rochester to become the publications editor of Communities In Schools (CIS), arguably the nation's leading dropout-prevention program. According to its Web site, Virginia-based CIS "helps students stay in school and make right choices by connecting schools with needed community resources." As part of that effort, Prince oversaw the development of publications aimed at a variety of audiences, including educators, volunteers, policymakers, and the public. In 1998 Prince left CIS to become interim director of communications at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) from 1998 to 1999. Prince was a natural choice for the position, as he had been heavily involved in NABJ's publications program for several years, serving as coeditor of the monthly NABJ Journal from 1989 to 1993 and as associate editor from 1994 to 1997.
Once the NABJ had found and hired a permanent communications director, Prince stepped down to pursue a variety of projects. He returned, for example, to the Washington Post, where he served as a part-time copy editor on the foreign desk beginning in 1999. Increasingly, however, he focused on Internet projects, including the Black College Wire (BCW), an online news source designed, according to its Web site, "to promote the journalistic work of students at predominantly black colleges and universities." Prince served as the editor of BCW from 2002, when it began, to 2007.
Prince's most prominent project, however, was the online column entitled Richard Prince's Journal-isms. As Prince told Fox-Alston in Fusion, the column began in the NABJ Journal about 1991 and ran there for the next seven years. Then, in 2002, Prince restarted Journal-isms in an online-only format on the Web site of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Named for a pioneering African-American newspaper editor and publisher, the Maynard Institute promotes diversity in journalism through training programs and outreach activities. Journal-isms is closely aligned with that broader mission; as Prince told Fox-Alston, the column's goal is "to report on news involving diversity issues in the news media, and journalists of color."
While Prince has long been known for the care with which he prepares his columns, his diligence, according to industry insiders, is particularly visible in Journalisms. According to Alexander LeMaine in the student newspaper published by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), for example, "Prince spends hours each day reporting and scouring the Web to compile material." This distinctive combination of traditional reporting and intensive online research offers, in LeMaine's words, "angles that may not have received much attention elsewhere." Among the topics covered in Journal-isms in the summer of 2008 were the lack of diversity in the upper management of television news networks; the 2007 murder in Oakland, California, of Chauncey Bailey, an African-American reporter, and the ongoing efforts of Bailey's colleagues to keep attention focused on the case; and the views of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain on affirmative action.
At a Glance …
Born Richard Everett Prince on July 26, 1947, in New York, NY; son of Jonathan Joseph and Audrey Elaine (White) Prince. Military service: U.S. Air Force Reserve, sergeant, 1968-73. Education: New York University, BS, 1969.
Career: Newark Star-Ledger, reporter, 1967-68; Washington Post, reporter, 1968-77; freelance writer, 1977-79; Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY), assistant metro editor, 1979-81, assistant news editor, 1981-85, editorial writer and columnist, 1985-94, op-ed editor, 1993-94; Gannett News Service, syndicated columnist, 1988-94; Communities In Schools, publications editor, 1994-98; National Association of Black Journalists, interim director of communications, 1998-99; Washington Post, foreign-desk copy editor (part-time), 1999-; Black College Wire, editor, 2002-07; founder and writer of Richard Prince's Journal-isms (online column), 2002—.
Memberships: National Association of Black Journalists; National Conference of Editorial Writers; The Trotter Group.
Awards: Column Contest, second prize, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, 1989; Writing Competition, third prize for commentary, National Association of Black Journalists, 1987, 1998, 1989; President's Award, National Association of Black Journalists, 2003; Let's Do It Better Award, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 2007.
Addresses: Office—c/o Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, 1211 Preservation Pkwy., Oakland, CA 94612; E-mail—[email protected]
According to Mallary Jean Tenore on the journalism Web site Poynter Online, Journal-isms was receiving an average of 60,000 unique visitors per month as of July, 2008. "I enjoy doing it even though it is a lot of work," Prince told LeMaine. "It's just not the journalists of color that need to know these things."
(Contributor) Wickham, DeWayne, ed., Thinking Black: Some of the Nation's Best Black Columnists Speak Their Mind, Crown Press, 1996.
(Contributor) The Trotter Group (DeWayne Wickham, ed.), Black Voices in Commentary, August Press, 2006.
ASNE Reporter, April 14, 2005.
Washington Post, March 11, 1977; April 5, 1977.
"About Us," Black College Wire, http://www.blackcollegewire.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1086&Itemid=39 (accessed October 31, 2008).
Fox-Alston, Jeanne, "Five Minutes with Richard Prince," Newspaper Association of America, http://www.naa.org/Resources/Publications/Fusion Magazine/FUSION-Magazine-2005-Summer/Diversity-Fusion-Five-Minutes-with-Richard-Prince/Diversity-Fusion-Five-Minutes-with-Richard-Prince.aspx (accessed October 31, 2008).
"How CIS works," Communities In Schools, http://www.cisnet.org/about/how.asp (accessed October 31, 2008).
Prince, Richard E., "Richard Prince: ‘Vintage’ Columns," The Trotter Group, http://www.trottergroup.org/prince_cols.htm (accessed October 31, 2008). Includes "The Supreme Court Wasn't Open at 2 a.m.," reprinted from the Seattle Times, December 13, 1988.
Tenore, Mallory Jean, "‘Journal-isms’ That Engage and Inform Diverse Audiences," Poynter Online, July 11, 2008, http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=58&aid=146549 (accessed October 31, 2008).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through personal correspondence with Richard E. Prince, 2008.
—R. Anthony Kugler