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Glenn Proctor to Edit Richmond Paper

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Black Journalist at Helm in Old Dixie Capital

Glenn Proctor, an associate editor of the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., and board member at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, has been named executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, the paper reported today.

"This is huge," Michael Paul Williams, a reporter and columnist at the paper, a Richmond native and president of the Richmond Black Media Professionals, told Journal-isms. "This is every bit as unfathomable as Virginia electing a black governor" in 1989. "This is not something I would have foreseen in my career here," said Williams, who has been at the paper 23 years. It was 1979 before the paper hired its first African American as a full-time reporter, Bonnie Winston, he said.

However, Raymond Boone, longtime black-press editor who is publisher, editor and founder of the Richmond Free Press, said of Proctor, "he's really going to have to prove himself. This will be a major challenge for him in a conservative town at a conservative newspaper." He said he suspected the paper was seeking a "progressive" face to increase its circulation in the majority-black city, but said Proctor would still ultimately have to answer to the paper's "ultraconservative" owners, Media General Inc.

"Glenn is the right editor at the right time for The Times-Dispatch,? said Thomas A. Silvestri, president and publisher, in the story. ?Glenn?s passion for excellence in journalism, his firm but fair approach and his commitment to moving an organization forward put him ahead of a very spirited competition for the job.? Silvestri was named publisher last November.

The appointment means the capital of the Old Confederacy will have an African American mayor, L. Douglas Wilder, who was the state's first black governor, and an African American editor of its daily newspaper.

The city's famed Monument Avenue is lined with statues of Confederate Civil War leaders, and after some controversy, one of African American tennis great Arthur Ashe, a Richmond native who died in 1993, has joined them.

The Times-Dispatch "is pretty reflective of the town itself," Williams said. "I don't see a lot of brothers running stuff around here," especially in private industry. "This is an extremely conservative place where change comes very slowly." Still, "Proctor will instantly become a major player in Richmond and in the state." [Added Oct. 7: Like his predecessor, William H. Millsaps Jr., Proctor will also have the title of vice president, the publisher's office said.]

Boone, who said his weekly has an audited circulation of 33,000 to the Times-Dispatch's 181,000 daily and 222,000 on Sunday, said the paper was known locally as the "Times-Disgrace" and had been "the cheerleaders of Massive Resistance" in defiance of the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation, and opposed civil rights figures Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall. Today it supports "the likes of" President Bush and Marshall's successor on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, Boone said.

Managing Editor Louise Seals told Journal-isms the Times-Dispatch faces the same problem as many dailies: "declining circulation, because there are so many ways people can get information and so many demands on people's time."

She said Proctor, at a meeting with the staff, "said what a lot of other editors have said . . . hard hitting local news, mining your beats, producing stories that no one else has will keep people reading."

Proctor, 59, "is a nationally recognized recruiter, seminar leader and mentor of journalists," the Times-Dispatch story continued. "At the Star-Ledger, where he was an assistant managing editor and city editor, Proctor was a key member of a management team that over a decade moved New Jersey?s largest daily newspaper to national prominence as the winner of two Pulitzer prizes, four Pulitzer finalists and dozens of national, regional and state journalism awards.

"Before The Star-Ledger, he was an assistant managing editor at the Democrat and Chronicle/Times-Union in Rochester, N.Y., business editor and night metro editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., night metro editor, newsroom education coordinator and reporter at The Beacon Journal in Akron, Ohio, and an assistant managing editor/nights, city editor and reporter at The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa. He also was a reporter for United Press International in Philadelphia and at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., where he started his journalism career in 1970."

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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