I worked at the Buffalo Evening News in the early in 1980s, just 10 years after a group of women in 1970 sued Newsweek magazine for gender discrimination in the workplace.
Lynn Povich, Newsweek’s first female senior editor and past managing editor of MSNBC.com, author of “The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace,” was one of the 46 women to bring the landmark lawsuit in 1970.
It was largely forgotten she wrote until she got a call from two women at Newsweek writing about women in the work place that discovered the lawsuit. In an insightful editorial for the Los Angeles Times, about the experience Povich wrote:
“The glass ceiling is being chipped away, if not shattered. But even that hasn’t stopped women from facing some of the same kinds of gender discrimination we documented more than a generation ago.The “good girls” won that case, but it was hardly the end of the fight. Not then, and not now.”
Yet, I know first hand from my experiences working at a newspaper in 1980, the environment she described they had encountered at Newsweek in 1970s. I observed and discovered at the Buffalo Evening News (now called the Buffalo News) a similar workplace environment though I was not hired as a writer, but the first Puerto Rican dictation clerk in the editorial room.
Back then, journalist still used the old typewriters, and as a dictation clerk, I used one too. And stringers in the field called and dictated stories to me that I typed up and sent to the city desk editors.
I met many wonderful journalist at the News some of the best writers in the country. This early experience in a major newspaper newsroom helped me to stay connected to the press, launching my avocation in the field as one of the most prolific bloggers in social media today with two online newspapers and about 10 blogs on different topics on Blogspot and WordPress.
When I wasn’t at the dictation desk, one of the other assignments I had picking up the newspapers fresh off the press downstairs and carting it around to the different areas in the editorial room, including placing copies on top of the reporters desks.
I got the dictation job through a reporter at the News who covered the Puerto Rican community as a beat. And at the time there were only two African-American reporters both men, one of them, I later married, Carl R. Allen (1956-1999).
One black men I noticed sat at a desk in the front of the editorial room visible to those who came into the newspaper, but he hardly ever wrote or had a by-line eventually he died of a cardiac problem at his desk.
Carl was younger represented a new generation of reporters hired in newsrooms across the country in the aftermath of the late 1960s protests and revolts about the Vietnam War, women’s liberation and racial segregation in America’s inner-cities.
He was ambitious had a by-line and actually wrote “real” stories and had the black community as a beat for a short time until his schedule changed from day hours to the second shift and this stifled his ability to write eventually assigned to cover mundane topics and small towns devoid of black people.
Carl died in 1999, started at the News in the mid seventies after he graduated from the journalism program at Buffalo State College. The Buffalo News had plucked him from the local black newspaper the Challenger where he began his professional career as a writer.
Yet, Carl trail blazed a path for other black journalists at the newspaper that joined later. Today, there is a Carl R. Allen Memorial Scholarship Fund, the local Buffalo Association of Black Journalist with support from the the Buffalo News and Buffalo Newspaper Guild sponsor for aspiring minority journalist.