Saturday, January 2, 2010

Deborah Howell, Newswoman

I was very sad to hear of the death of Deborah Howell, former editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (I met her back in the late '80s, while in grad school doing some participant observation research in the newsroom.)

Howell left the PiPress in 1990 to head the Washington bureau of the Newhouse news chain, then later was the ombudsperson for the Washington Post. I had stopped following her career by then, but according to the NPR story I heard this morning about her death, it sounds like there were some eventful moments there related to names like Jack Abramoff and Bob Woodward.

The PiPress won two Pulitzers under her leadership. Reading her Wikipedia entry, I learned that Howell, born in 1941, was part of the first generation of women to break down the men-only barriers that surrounded the news business:

[She worked] on her high school paper and then, as a journalism student, on The Daily Texan, the student newspaper for The University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, Howell had difficulty finding a job off the old women's pages and would instead take a job as at a local TV and radio station. Eventually, Howell would get a job at the copy desk of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, before later moving on to the Minneapolis Star as a reporter, then city editor and assistant managing editor and then at the St. Paul Pioneer Press as the senior vice president and editor.
What a waste it was, when our country's businesses used to pretend half of our human potential didn't exist. I'm glad Deborah Howell kicked her way into the news business.

3 comments:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I hadn't heard....

There were a few women who kicked their way in as early as the 50s and 60s, but they never had a chance to move as high as Deborah did. I met a few of them in Milwaukee and in the Twin Cities when I was just out of j-school. They were strong and smart, and proud of the women who followed them.

I can't imagine the political crap she had to deal with behind the scenes, in order to do all that she did!

Daughter Number Three said...

One woman who comes to mind is Geri Joseph, who came out of the J-School just after World War II. And I'm reminded that Ellen Goodman just wrote her last column in the last few days...

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Yes, I was sad to see that Ellen was moving on....kinda hoping she'll decide to write in some other format--maybe blogging.