Robert G. McGruder wins NABJ Legacy Award
Presented annually to a print, broadcast, digital or photojournalist of extraordinary accomplishment who has broken barriers and blazed trails, McGruder’s stellar career perfectly embodies the spirit of the award. McGruder, who died in 2002, is posthumously granted this honor due to his legacy of living the actions necessary to improve newsroom diversity and journalism overall.
As an experienced newsroom leader, McGruder understood implicit bias and hired in spite of it. His mentorship created a legion of award-winning writers, editors and managers – many of whom went on to be top newsroom leaders themselves.
“Bob wanted to make sure that people in the newsroom wrote news that reflected the community,” says Rochelle Riley, a metro columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She is one of many writers hired, and pushed, by McGruder. “It didn’t matter what color you were. He got it. He made the word diversity mean something. For him, it was an action.”
McGruder had a long career of breaking newsroom barriers. He became the first black reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland in 1963, the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors in 1995, and went on to become the first black executive editor of the Detroit Free Press in 1996. He sat on the board of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and served as a Pulitzer Prize nominating judge.
When he won the John S. Knight Gold Medal, the highest award given to employees of now-defunct newspaper giant Knight Ridder, he once again pushed for balance. Said McGruder: ”I represent the African Americans, Latinos, Arab Americans, Asians, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, women and all the others we must see represented in our business offices, newsrooms and our newspapers if we truly want to meet the challenge of serving our communities.”
McGruder was a beloved force whose quiet, yet the intense manner of speaking and editing became the stuff of legend. The 2002 NABJ Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was a calm coach and a fierce advocate. He died, at age 60, of cancer.
“Bob’s career impacted hundreds of journalists through his mentorship, offering career development and guidance that goes beyond words,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “He certainly left his imprint on Detroit journalism, and it makes it even more special that NABJ is honoring him in him his hometown.”
McGruder will be honored at the NABJ Salute to Excellence Awards during the NABJ Convention and Career Fair on Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.