Our esteemed author, Samuel G. Freedman, has a nice article at Columbia Journalism Review talking about how he came to write — and we came to publish — his new book “Dying Words: The AIDS Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed The New York Times.” One of the many powerful sentences in this CJR piece:
Jeff burned for the Times to cover gay people and issues in a way that wasn’t exotic or judgmental, and he knew the newsroom politics well enough to recognize that such change would not happen easily. Young, straight, sympathetic reporters like me were Jeff’s stealthy emissaries. After all, these were the days when official Times style forbade using the word “gay” except as part of a direct quote. The only acceptable term otherwise was “homosexual,” so chilly and clinical and alien. (Indeed, the headline on my story was “Pride and Joy at Homosexual Parade.”) I was just beginning to grasp the fear that many gay and lesbian journalists on the Times felt, a force that kept many in the closet and compelled several into paper marriages for the sake of their careers.