A Blessing and a Burden

From The New York Times:

Boynton-t_CA0-popup Gerald M. Boyd’s memoir, “My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at The New York Times,” opens with the author waking from a dream. Heart racing, he reflects on a life — a remarkable Horatio Alger-like rise from “stifling poverty” to a senior post among the newspaper’s “succession of greats,” ending with a swift fall — whose meaning eludes him. This book, published posthumously, is an attempt to come to terms with that life, and particularly with the role race played in it. Boyd, born in St. Louis in 1950, was 3 when his mother died. His alcoholic father abandoned the family when he was 11, and an ­extraordinary grandmother raised Boyd and his brother. Journalism was his salvation. At the age of 7, Boyd was hawking The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sundays. Years later, the paper awarded him a full scholarship to the University of Missouri, and hired him upon graduation. Boyd thrived at The Post-Dispatch, first as a local reporter and then as a Washington correspondent. Along the way, he helped found the Greater St. ­Louis Association of Black Journalists and was a Nie­man fellow at Harvard.

Boyd was hired by The Times in 1983. “Second only to my family, The Times defined me; I was addicted to the paper and all it represented, cloaking myself in its power and prestige,” he writes. From the beginning of the relationship, race was a factor. After accepting the job, Boyd was welcomed by a top editor: “I ­really enjoyed your clips — they’re so well written. Did you write them yourself, or did someone write them for you?” On his third day he was asked whether he was “ready” for an assignment. “I wondered how many new white reporters heard their first assignment preceded by that question,” he says.

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