The year marks my 25th year of writing for The St. Louis American. I know, where did the years go?
I’ll do a brief recap of how I got my coveted spot for those of you who haven’t heard the story.
I was an avid reader of the newspaper. Back in 1992, while busy working on the mayoral campaign of Freeman Bosley Jr., I observed that there were only male voices doing commentary in The St. Louis American. I raised my concern to Publisher Donald M. Suggs.
Dr. Suggs agreed and extended the invitation to me to write, and eventually I accepted the challenge. I say “challenge” because meeting a weekly deadline can be brutal with a schedule like mine. I became the newspaper’s first female featured columnist. “The Way I See It” was born.
Some 1,000 columns later, I thought it would be interesting to share some reflections with my readers. Every fourth Thursday, we’ll stroll down memory lane together.
For example, I plan to explore the most-read columns and attempt to determine what made them resonate with you. And I’ll tell what facts readers say they never knew until they read it in “The Way I See It.”
Readers unarguably had a hand in the making of my first book, The Best of "The Way I See It" and Other Political Writings (1989-2010). It was published in 2011, and a national book tour followed.
Today, I will address several myths about my relationship with the award-winning newspaper.
First, I am not an employee of the newspaper. While I’m welcome to visit anytime, I have no desk at the office with my name on it. I email my column to the editor. It’s rare that there is wrangling over what I’ve written.
The employee status often must be explained. People want to give me a press advisory for an event as assurance that it will be published. The flip side is that I also get asked why a press statement or letter to the editor didn’t show up in The American.
Plus, I am not on the editorial board, yet get called on to defend a position the editorial board takes. I’m neither the author of the editorials nor the messenger. However, I have no problem debating the points in an American editorial with anyone. That’s the fun part.
The publisher and the editor don’t give me weekly assignments about what to write about. That’s mainly my decision as I ponder the events and stories of the week and how they impact my people, their lives and their futures. Occasionally, I may be asked to write about an issue that’s of national public interest or where my view as a black, radical feminist is desired.
Over the years, I have been given lots of latitude as a writer. I write about what I think is important. It’s the kind of situation that most columnists can only dream of.
I remember letting someone at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talk me into applying for an open columnist position. I did and was soundly rejected, as I knew I would be. My friend Sylvester Brown, who was eminently qualified, got the job. After I saw how he was treated – he was eventually fired, causing a public outcry – I know my rejection was a blessing not well disguised.
Being a columnist with The American has made me a better writer, a keener observer and a more curious scholar. Silver is the gem for a 25th anniversary, but this experience has been golden.