By Al McFarlane,
Chairman, National Newspaper
Publishers Association Foundation,
Editor-In-Chief, Insight News
In the tradition …
George Curry, former editor-in-chief of National Newspaper Publishers Association Wire Service, embodied the legacy and the future of the Black Press of America. He was old-school in that he was a gum-shoe reporter, sticking to the trail of facts, chasing down every lead, then double-checking the facts, and double checking them again before launching his burning truth missives.
And he was new school in that he recognized the critical importance of bringing the basic tenants of classic journalism – the facts, the facts, the facts, please – into a future teaming with savants who see themselves as journalists, but have no clue about the ethical and mental training required to genuinely be journalists.
In the tradition of news gathering and reporting, Curry represented the best of journalism, when the profession of newspapering, white newspapering to be specific, was a willing partner and pillar of a system of white supremacist thought that guided race policy and race relations, domestically, and globally.
Curry forged the best of journalism’s bedrock principles – the facts, the facts, and the facts, please – into weapons of change, challenging prevailing assumptions about privilege, superiority and so called objectivity. He shattered the myth the we have often treated as bigger than truth or fact, that white equals right.
Consistent and fearless, Curry trusted the power of his mind, the truth of our experience and the quality of his training. He recognized our demand of ourselves and our responsibility to humanity called for relentless examination of ideas and actions that shaped our lives individually and collectively.
Curry was the quintessential “soldier without a sword” slaying draconian ideas and dismantling institutional arrangements with his pen. One of the finest examples of Curry’s ability to destroy stultifying complacency was his work as editor-in-chief of Emerge, the hard hitting news monthly brought to market in the 1990s. Emerge brought to the world’s consciousness a new assessment of the devastating impact of drug sentencing polices on our community, and on Black women in particular. The focus he created shifted the narrative, led to the presidential commutation of a harsh, unfair sentence imposed on Kemba Smith, and created today’s challenges to the disparate treatment of our people in the criminal justice system (see Page 1 story).
Curry stepped full force into the age of digital journalism, launching his own independent news wire upon leaving the wire service he managed for National Newspaper Publishers Association. He was seeking crowd-funding to relaunch Emerge as a digital platform. In the interim, he continued to provide cutting-edge reporting and commentary to Black newspapers under his George Curry Media banner.
Curry’s impact on the future of Black journalism will emerge for generations to come through the works of students he taught and mentored in places like Howard University’s School of Communications, and the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABL) Minority Journalism Workshop, which he founded and served as director. That program was later adopted by the National Association of Black Journalists. New leaders in the Black Press, including Insight managing editor, Colbert, who was as student of the GSLABJ program, and later its lead radio instructor, will continue to blaze ever-widening trails delivering digital, technology-rich journalism to the service of justice and our people.