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Kevin Merida

Journalist and author Kevin Merida was born in 1957 in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. Merida received his B.S. degree in journalism in 1979 from Boston University, where he was also editor of the student newspaper Blackfolk. He went on to graduate from the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the University of California at Berkeley.

In 1979, Merida was hired as a general assignments reporter and rotating city desk editor for The Milwaukee Journal. From 1983 to 1993, he worked for The Dallas Morning News, where he served as a special projects reporter, local political writer, national reporter, White House correspondent and assistant managing editor in charge of foreign and national news coverage. Merida was then hired by The Washington Post in 1993, where he first covered Congress. He joined the paper’s national political reporting team to cover the 1996 presidential campaign; and joined the Style section staff in 1997. Merida was promoted to associate editor in 2001, and was appointed national editor in 2008. From 2001 to 2004, he wrote the column, "Side Streets," which was syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group. In 2013, Merida was named the first African American managing editor of The Washington Post.

Merida co-authored the 2007 biography Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, which was awarded the nonfiction prize at the inaugural Essence Literary Awards. He also co-authored 2008’s Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs, and was editor of Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril, a collection of Washington Post essays written in 2006. In addition, Merida has taught journalism at Marquette University and in Boston University’s Washington journalism program. He was a public policy scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and has served on the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards board.

Merida has won a number of awards, including a 2006 Vernon Jarrett Medal for feature writing; a 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University’s College of Journalism; and a first place commentary prize in 2003 from the National Association of Black Journalists. He was named NABJ’s “Journalist of the Year” in 2000, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1990.

Merida lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, author and commentator Donna Britt. They have three sons.

Kevin Merida was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 31, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.098

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/20/2014 |and| 5/21/2014

Last Name

Merida

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Occupation
Schools

Boston University

University of California, Berkeley

First Name

Kevin

Birth City, State, Country

Wichita

HM ID

MER02

State

Kansas

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/17/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Short Description

Journalist and author Kevin Merida (1957 - ) was the first African American managing editor of The Washington Post, and was co-author of Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas and Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.

Employment

The Milwaukee Journal

The Dallas Morning News

The Washington Post

The Washington Post Writers Group

Milton Coleman

Newspaper editor Milton R. Coleman was born on November 29, 1946 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Coleman grew up in the Hillside Terrace public housing project in Milwaukee. He attended Fourth Street Elementary School and then graduated from Lincoln Junior and Senior High School. Coleman received his B.F.A. degree in music history and literature from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1971, he was named a Southern Education Foundation Fellow. In 1974, Coleman was awarded a fellowship to attend the Michele Clark Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Coleman began his career in journalism as a reporter for the Milwaukee Courier. He then worked as a reporter and editor for several minority-oriented news outlets, including the African World newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina; the All-African News Service; WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C.; and the Community News Service of New York. Coleman also worked at a major metropolitan newspaper, the Minneapolis Star, before joining the The Washington Post in 1976 as a reporter on the metropolitan desk where he covered politics and government in Montgomery County, Maryland and the District of Columbia. In 1980, he was promoted to the city editor. Coleman then moved to the national news staff in 1983 where he covered minorities and immigration, the 1984 Presidential campaign, state and local governments, and the U.S. Congress. In 1986, he was hired as the assistant managing editor for the metropolitan news where he directed the newspapers local coverage. In July of 1996, Coleman was promoted to deputy managing editor of The Washington Post.

Coleman is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and the Inter-American Press Association. He served as a member of the nominating committee for the Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism and as the chairman of the Seldon Ring Award for Investigative Reporting Judging Committee. In April of 2010, Coleman was elected as the president of the American Society of News Editors; and, in October of 2011, he was elected as the president of Inter-American Press Association. In 2012, Coleman was selected as the inaugural University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Foundation Alumni Fellow.

Milton R. Coleman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.125

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/23/2013

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Richard

Occupation
Schools

Columbia University

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Lincoln High School

Golda Meir Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Milton

Birth City, State, Country

Milwaukee

HM ID

COL23

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Wisconsin

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/29/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Newspaper editor Milton Coleman (1946 - ) was the managing editor of The Washington Post. He also served as president of the American Society of News Editors and the Inter-American Press Association.

Employment

Milwaukee Courier

Student Organization for Black Unity

All African News Service

Community News Service

Minneapolis Star

Washington Post

African World

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Milton Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman remembers his maternal grandfather, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman remembers his maternal grandfather, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman describes his likeness to his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman talks about his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman recalls moving to the Hillside Terrace housing projects in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman describes the Hillside Terrace housing project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman talks about his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman talks about the history of the Great Migration, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman talks about the history of Great Migration, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman remembers his experiences in primary and secondary school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman recalls the basketball team at Lincoln Junior-Senior High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman recalls his primary school mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman describes his early encounters with media and editing

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman talks about the talents of his brother, Jerome.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman describes his interest in sports when he was young, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman describes his interest in sports when he was young, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman recalls secondary teachers and individuals that inspired him, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman recalls secondary teachers and individuals that inspired him, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman recalls secondary teachers and individuals that inspired him, pt. 3

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman talks about his involvement in organizations as a high school student

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Milton Coleman recalls his honors and awards in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman recalls enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman talks about Professor Edith Borroff

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman recalls changing his focus to African American ethnomusicology

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman describes his involvement with the black student movement

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman recalls his introduction to journalism

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman remembers writing for Negro Digest

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman recalls his introduction to Hoyt W. Fuller

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman talks about his graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman recalls directing the Soul Shack program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman describes his role at the Milwaukee Courier

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman remembers moving to North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman talks about the Student Organization for Black Unity

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman remembers moving to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman describes his reasons for founding the All African News Service

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman talks about his early challenges at the All African News Service

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman recalls the reporters and writers at the All African News Service

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman talks about the emergence of black organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman remembers joining the staff of WHUR Radio in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman remembers the Michele Clark Summer Program for Minority Journalists

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman describes his experiences at Columbia University

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman describes his transition to the Minneapolis Star

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman recalls his experiences at the Minneapolis Star

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman describes his decision to join the staff of the Washington Post

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman recalls his start at The Washington Post

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman remembers Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Milton Coleman remembers Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Milton Coleman talks about gun violence

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Milton Coleman remembers his promotion to city editor of The Washington Post

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Milton Coleman remembers covering the black community for The Washington Post

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Milton Coleman remembers Janet Cooke's article about a child heroin addict, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Milton Coleman remembers Janet Cooke's article about a child heroin addict, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Milton Coleman recalls his doubts about Janet Cooke's reporting, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Milton Coleman recalls his doubts about Janet Cooke's reporting, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Milton Coleman describes the aftermath of the Janet Cooke scandal

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Milton Coleman talks about the importance of journalistic integrity

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Milton Coleman recalls the impact of the Janet Cooke scandal on his career

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Milton Coleman talks about his early challenges at the All African News Service
Milton Coleman describes his decision to join the staff of the Washington Post
Transcript
So you just couldn't get the papers to pay their bills on time--now, this is probably, no matter what kind of service you had, it probably would be an issue in the black (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$ (Simultaneous) Yeah. And because of--I mean, that was the beginning of the thing--of the black--of the black press. You know, the black press had been at its high point in the '60s [1960s]. And then as is so frequently the case, once white folks start doing it, the black folks go out of business, you know. And it was always clear to me from my days at the Courier [Milwaukee Courier] that so much of the advertising in the black press at that time was not consumer driven. Then the advertising came primarily out of the public relations budget of the supermarkets. But they weren't really trying to get black folks to buy their cabbage and coleslaw. They were just trying to look good. And even to this day, a lot of advertising toward ethnic publications is not consumer driven. You know, it's public relations driven. And the black press had really been good until white folks started covering the Civil Rights Movement, 'cause up until that time, if you wanted to read about what was happening in the South, you had to read the Chicago Defender and the Afro-American Newspapers; the Atlanta Daily World, you know. The black press told you about the lynchings. The white press did not. And so I was part of the generation, probably on the tail end of the generation of people who came out of the black press into mainline newspapers, you know.$$I've been told not just in journalism, but in many other fields, doors for opportunity, you know, popped up after the '68 [1968] riots.$$ Oh, yeah.$$And (unclear) mean black people who had not even--didn't even dream about being in a riot were able to get a job, you know, in so many fields. They were the first African American--I interviewed the, you know, the first African American to do this or do that, anything you can think of almost.$$ Yeah.$$You know, so. They were actually recruiting people to be a part of like, Newsweek or Time or whatever.$$ If you read the Kerner Commission report on the chapter on the news media, it paints a whole picture of what life was like for black folks in the media at that time. I mean, Carl Rowan was the only black syndicated columnist. The only one, you know. And there were hardly any editors or--because, you know, essentially, white guys cover the Civil Rights Movement, and that was their springboard to higher positions in the news media, you know.$ (Simultaneous) Right. And I, and I wrote a, I wrote a series on Minneapolis finances that became part of my packet that I sent out looking for a job. And so I started looking for a job after I'd been--I had already been turned down by the Dayton Daily News, and turned down by The Philadelphia Inquirer a year earlier. And so I get this letter from the woman who's in charge of recruiting for The Washington Post newsroom, because I had applied for another job in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. I put Maynard [Robert C. Maynard] down as a reference, and Maynard had given this woman the clips, and she wanted me to come and interview at The Post. And so I had three interviews set up. One at The Washington Post, thanks to Maynard; one at The Philadelphia Inquirer, and one at the Washington bureau Newsweek. I had these three interviews. And so I come down and do these--all the interviews, and I get back to Minneapolis [Minnesota], so Faye [Coleman's wife, Faye Edwards Coleman] says, "Well, what's the story?" I said, "Well, I have two interviews--I have two job offers. I have one from The Philadelphia Inquirer, and one from The Washington Post." She said, "Which one's the better offer?" I said, "Well, actually The Philadelphia Inquirer has the better offer." She said, "Why?" I said, "Well, if I go to The Washington Post, I'll be covering government and politics in Montgomery County of Maryland. If I go to The Philadelphia Inquirer, I'll be covering the governor." She said, "Where's the governor?" I said, "In Harrisburg [Pennsylvania]." She said, "I hope you have fun." I decided to come to Washington [D.C.] (laughter). But it was a good offer in both places, but she was not about to go to Harrisburg. Wise woman that she was, 'cause Three Mile Island occurred a year or so later. And so that's how I wound up coming to The Post. And I--while I was in Minneapolis, I was mentored by, not only by Maynard, but by Joel Dreyfuss, who later became all kinds of things including the managing editor of theroot.com. But Joel was--I would write stories and send clips of those stories to Joel, and Joel would critique them in a no holds barred way, and Maynard and Austin Scott, who at the time was with The Washington Post, but had been with the Associated Press. And Joel taught me to always be concerned about who your editor is and to try to get an editor who would not only tell you why your story is no good, but would help you understand how to make it better. And I learned that from Joel, and I learned how to write better from Joel, 'cause Joel was--Joel at the time was at The Washington Post, and he was on the style staff and, in fact, when I came down for interviews, I stayed in Joel's apartment in Washington, 'cause I had my interviews in Philadelphia--in Harrisburg on, like, a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And my interviews at The Post were, like, on Monday and Tuesday. So I came down to Washington and stayed in Joel's apartment. He was away. And Joel, himself, had been the center of controversy, because he had trapped--he had been on the job as a Los Angeles [California] correspondent for The Post, and had been denied that job in a very public way, 'cause Ben Bradlee wrote a memo to Joel saying that, "Joel, you're a good reporter. Everybody wants a good reporter in Los Angeles, but nobody wants a pain in the ass," and all of that had become public. And so when I came down here, I told Joel. I said, you know, "Joel, if I'm offered a job at The Post, I'm not so sure I'd take it." And Joel said, "Why?" And I said, "Well, because of what went down between you and Bradlee." And Joel said, "You'd be a fool if you do that. What happened between me and Bradlee is between me and Bradlee." And Joel said very prophetically, "You might be able to do things at The Washington Post that I could never do." So with that advice from Joel and the sage advice of my wife (laughter), I came to The Washington Post.