The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Geoff Brown

Journalist Geoffrey (Geoff) Franklin Brown was born on October 30, 1952, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to George F. and Helen V. Brown. Brown attended the Episcopal Cathedral School in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and graduated from Greensburg-Salem (Pennsylvania) High School in 1970. He went on to receive his B.A. degree in English literature from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1974.

Upon graduation, Brown returned to Pennsylvania where he was hired as a general assignment reporter for the Pittsburgh Press. He worked at the Pittsburgh Press from 1974 to 1975, and again from 1977 to 1978. He also had two stints at Jet magazine, from 1975 to 1977 and 1978 to 1980, where he held various positions, including entertainment writer, copy editor, co-managing editor and features editor. He was then hired by the Chicago Tribune in 1980 as a copy editor. Brown went on to serve as the Tribune’s national/foreign news editor, north suburban bureau chief, and entertainment editor. In 1998, he was promoted to associate managing editor for entertainment; in 2000, he became associate managing editor for lifestyle/features. In 2009, Brown returned to duty as the Chicago Tribune’s associate managing editor for entertainment, where he supervised the daily Arts & Entertainment, Dining, Movies and On The Town sections, plus the daily and Sunday Comics pages, and related online content. In April of 2015, Brown was named the Tribune’s operations and development editor.

Brown received the Chicago Tribune’s Jones-Beck Award for Outstanding Professional Performance in 1988, and was awarded a fellowship at Maynard’s Institute of Journalism Education in 1989. He was also honored by Chicago’s Bridge to Work program, a South Side welfare-to-work program that emphasized preparing people for getting a job as well as navigating the workplace.

Geoff Brown was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 25, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.121

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/25/2014

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Franklin

Occupation
Schools

School On The Hill

Episcopal Cathedral School

Greensburg-Salem High School

Bowdoin College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Geoffrey

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

BRO59

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chicago, Illinois

Favorite Quote

Treat Others As You Want To Be Treated

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/30/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Snickerdoodle Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies

Short Description

Journalist Geoff Brown (1952 - ) was a managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, where he worked for over thirty years.

Employment

Chicago Tribune

Pittsburgh Press

Jet Magazine

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2780,13:3100,18:10737,164:11085,169:18566,240:23548,318:28178,353:29646,373:29986,379:31142,400:37445,461:47528,580:62104,763:62707,775:63377,786:64985,818:65521,827:65923,834:66660,848:67062,860:67732,871:69273,903:69943,915:71149,947:77980,1005:79580,1033:80140,1041:88250,1115:95466,1200:101780,1282:102746,1299:109020,1396:110900,1426:115767,1469:116460,1480:124498,1556:124794,1561:126052,1584:126496,1591:129900,1661:130492,1670:132046,1703:136350,1739:137150,1753:138350,1778:139070,1792:139390,1797:140190,1810:148580,1876:149120,1883:151690,1902:152544,1915:156326,2003:163092,2057:165220,2097:169856,2185:180020,2268:181980,2311:182610,2323:192681,2434:192989,2439:193990,2453:212469,2732:219138,2780:246856,3108:247321,3114:247693,3119:252100,3164$0,0:297,3:12200,124:12500,129:15350,181:16175,191:16625,198:17450,210:27404,309:39690,415:45220,506:45852,522:65846,824:67062,851:78180,996:81290,1002:81650,1007:85790,1065:86150,1070:87230,1077:87950,1086:101280,1171:101568,1176:103512,1203:117708,1462:118048,1468:118320,1476:119000,1493:119544,1502:119952,1510:120904,1526:133112,1660:133630,1712:133926,1717:137590,1753:138016,1760:149622,1975:152562,2020:157266,2103:166611,2166:168954,2203:169238,2211:169806,2220:179107,2383:179391,2388:195635,2522:197752,2586:212854,2765:213706,2779:214061,2785:215410,2808:216049,2820:216333,2825:216617,2830:217540,2845:218321,2858:218605,2863:226344,3014:226699,3020:238034,3113:239288,3139:254092,3314:259712,3381:260000,3386:260360,3392:261008,3403:262160,3423:269072,3580:269504,3587:269936,3594:287166,3785:295200,3896:299610,3990:313730,4143
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Geoff Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown talks about his parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after the most

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Geoff Brown describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Geoff Brown remembers moving frequently for his father's career in journalism

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Geoff Brown describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Geoff Brown remembers moving from Puerto Rico to the mainland Unites States

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Geoff Brown talks about his father's career as a journalist, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Geoff Brown talks about his father's experiences of workplace discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown talks about his father's career as a journalist, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown talks about his early interest in journalism

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown remembers moving to Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown describes his experiences at Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown recalls the start of his career in journalism

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown talks about the black community at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown describes the racial tensions in Brunswick, Maine

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Geoff Brown remembers his mentor at Bowdoin College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Geoff Brown talks about his aspirations to attend graduate school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Geoff Brown talks about the development of his writing style

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown talks about his classmates at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown remembers his father's death

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown recalls his start at Jet magazine in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown talks about his contemporaries at Jet magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown talks about his experiences as a managing editor at Jet magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown remembers John H. Johnson and Robert E. Johnson

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown remembers his decision to leave Jet magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown remembers Bill Berry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown talks about meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown remembers hosting celebrities at Jet's executive lunchroom

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown remembers his interview with Gwen McCrae

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown talks about the Johnson Publishing Company's corporate counsel

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown describes the relationship between Jet and Ebony staff

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown talks about his work ethic

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Geoff Brown talks about his colleagues at the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Geoff Brown describes his experiences at the Chicago Tribune during Mayor Harold Washington's election

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Geoff Brown reflects upon his expereinces at the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Geoff Brown talks about the Chicago Tribune's reputation

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown talks about his career path at the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown talks about his role as entertainment editor for the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown talks about covering the black community in the entertainment section of the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown talks about the comics section of the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown talks about the introduction of The Boondocks comic in the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown talks about the impact of the internet on print journalism

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown talks about Sam Zell's leveraged buyout of the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Geoff Brown describes his role at the Chicago Tribune during the financial crisis of 2008

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown describes the aftermath of the Chicago Tribune's bankruptcy

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown talks about the print side of the Chicago Tribune

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown describes his plans for retirement

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown talks about the entertainment scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Geoff Brown talks about the entertainment scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Geoff Brown talks about the lack of funding for arts education

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Geoff Brown talks about his decisions to pull comics from the Chicago Tribune, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Geoff Brown talks about his decisions to pull comics from the Chicago Tribune, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Geoff Brown describes the Chicago Tribune's comic strip review committee

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Geoff Brown talks about his editorial philosophy for newspaper comics

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown talks about the future of print journalism

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Geoff Brown reflects upon his decision to pursue a career in journalism

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Geoff Brown reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Geoff Brown reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Geoff Brown narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Geoff Brown talks about his experiences as a managing editor at Jet magazine
Geoff Brown talks about his career path at the Chicago Tribune
Transcript
And so where this story is headed is that opportunity at Johnson's [Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois] it came really quick, really quick. So that's a good thing, and it's a bad thing because if you're young and you get all of that all at once, then I've seen all of this, what else is there? You're not really striving to have a bunch of experiences that it takes people at mainstream newspapers years to get to. And I'm getting it all in these concentrated bursts, so that's--$$So you become managing editor in what year? Do you remember? How long had you been there?$$It wasn't--not long. It was--so I, I'm fairly certain the copy editor was '76 [1976]. So this would have been '77 [1977] or '78 [1978].$$Right, because I have you returning back to The Pittsburgh Press in '77 [1977]. So you're managing editor before you go back to The Pittsburgh Press. That's hu- do you think because you were anointed by your, you know your father [George Brown] and, and people? And then the other was you probably were working hard.$$Oh, yeah, it was working, yeah. Yeah you worked hard.$$Like how?$$Late hours. The--the amount of work--$$Give a typical day or week. I mean what was involved with even putting that publication together?$$So let's say leaving aside original stories that you did yourself. Well we had a box of clips from other newspapers 'cause Jet is a digest, first and foremost. So you'd rewrite these clips and lots of them. And then you'd make them--you know you'd make them fit in the design and--so just a lot of work every day and a lot of stress because you, you're trying to do what's right. Then you've got to do original work. So you know you'd do some travel and, and, and all that other work would be waiting for you. No one else would do your work for you while you were gone. So just--it was intense. But it wasn't, it wasn't fulfilling. That, that kind of work wasn't fulfilling me, so I needed--$$Now why was that? Because it's so short, the writing is so short?$$Yeah. It was, it was--once you master that. I mean once the game, the game is to be as much fun with it unless it's again, a tragedy or something, to have as much fun with it as you can. But it had to be dignified. So once you master that thing and what's there for you, okay to do longer form journalism. But I didn't want to be a reporter ultimately. I like writing, didn't like reporting. And I'm a very introspective person. And so I--rather than deny it and deny it, I just embraced it and said, okay I--$$So how long--so the format--'cause you know they have the--what is the play girl, play, play--the Beauty of the Week, the Beauty of the Week. They still have the Beauty of the Week.$$Yes they do.$$Even it, you know today.$$Right, back from the [HistoryMaker] Lamonte McLemore, who was the 'Up, Up and Away.'$$The 5th Dimension.$$Yeah, 5th Dimension. You know he used to shoot most of them.$$He did?$$For a long time. Yeah matter of fact, once I picked up a Jet after not having seen it a while, I said, "Oh, oh it's a new name in the Jet centerfold."$$I see, I never knew that. He did the--he shot them?$$Yes he did.$So when you, when you come--become the national foreign news editor, that seems like--that's a big deal.$$Right, and so, so what that is was a, was a heavy duty quality control. I wasn't, I wasn't determining what was going to go in the paper. News editor was sort of a you know I had to, I had to schedule people and I had to, you know I was responsible for accuracy and I was responsible for evaluations of the production side, the, the, the assigning editors and the--but the correspondence, they all reported to the national editor and the foreign editor. So you know we--and, and we had to get the newspaper in on time, so I was a--I had to crack the whip on deadlines and stuff like that. That's what that job was, not, not determining what went in the paper. That comes later.$$Comes later, okay. So tell, tell your, tell the rest of the things, 'cause I have you metro chief for Rosemont [Illinois], national foreign copy editor, overnight page editor. You know and in this time I think Jack Fuller takes, I mean--and he's, he's probably--I mean his name became somewhat legendary. I remember his--$$Yeah, he, he's a, he's a novelist too, right. So yeah it's about this time, to answer your question you asked a long time ago, so who's looking out for Geoff [HistoryMaker Geoff Brown]? So Howard Tyner who was the foreign editor, he took a liking to me because again, conscientious sense of humor and all that kind of stuff. And he was one of those kind of people who would actually take an interest in how things worked. So he wanted to know how the copy desk worked. So I told him, you know, and he'd praise our headlines when they were good and slam them when they were bad. But for the most part, I didn't take it personally. That's what derails a lot of people, that they can't take criticism so they you know, they bite back and whatnot. It's like, "Okay you didn't like it, tell me what you didn't like about it, okay." And you and--you don't repeat the, the--your mistake. Well he--and then he start--so he's sitting off like the side saying, "We ought to do something with this guy." Bless his heart. So one day he gets to be--I think he runs--he, he winds up going over to features because that was the, the track. So Jack Fuller had been executive editor of features, and then he became the editor and they were trying to groom Howard for the same thing. So he went over to features. Meanwhile, I'm out--they decide now I, I've gone to--when I was a news editor, they said, "Okay well we wanna see you become a manager and you know, to man the troops. So we're gone put you in Rosemont." That was--they cooked up that scheme for Geoff and so I wound up being a bureau chief, which is where I meet Jerry Thomas. And, and while I hated every single moment of it, I have to say that that experience was probably the most important in my development because as a bureau chief, you have to chase fire engines and you have to deploy the troops and you have to stay there all night until the story gets done. And, and if it's not done right, it's on you. Now what I didn't like about it was chasing fire engines. All the rest of it, I dug it, right. So I managed to talk myself into returning back downtown where national, I'm just on the national foreign desk. And then Howard says, "Why don't you come work in features?" And there was this thing called the overnight page, and that was the entertainment page. And funny moment, he says, "So I, I don't know if you're into this stuff." I said, "Well, you haven't seen my resume, but that's pretty much all I did before I came to the Tribune [Chicago Tribune]." So I had an affinity for it. So that's how I got--and I wasn't--here's the thing. I wasn't too ashamed to say I really--I'm getting depressed from doing this job. I hate this so much. So can I please be relieved of it? So they were able to do it without the--but you know a lot of people asked me, "Well then didn't you think that would derail your career?" Well when you hate something that much, you don't care. I wasn't a careerist, so I got, I keep getting promoted anyway.