By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – I’m convinced that around the country, and perhaps the world, there are many letters similar to the one I received in the mail some 18 years ago. It was written by hand and it ended with a heart and an arrow through it.
I was stunned by the sender: John C. Quinn. I was a cub reporter at a small newspaper then, tending to nighttime fires, crimes and local community meetings that no veteran reporters wanted to cover. I couldn’t believe I was getting letters from someone who was a legend in my field.
A couple of years before, I’d been the recipient of a scholarship Mr. Quinn and his wife, Loie, had established in memory of their oldest son John “Chips” Quinn Jr., who took after his father, one of the founding editors of USA Today, and, less importantly, the sender of my letters. Chips worked as a newspaper editor in Poughkeepsie, New York. He died in 1990 and in the wake of his death following an automobile accident, the family established, not just a scholarship, but a program called the Chips Quinn Scholars to help minority journalists like me work and stay in newsrooms so we could tell an accurate story of disadvantaged communities throughout the U.S. that often was left out.
Organizers told us at orientation that it marked the beginning, not just of a career in journalism, but the induction into a family. It should have been no surprise then that through the years, John Quinn, and those who ran the program, regularly kept tabs on us because they knew the road for minority journalists wasn’t — and still isn’t — an easy one.
They listened to our tales of isolation in newsrooms, lack of opportunities, struggles with editors, management, with other reporters, with family, but also of breakthroughs, breakups, promotions and personal celebrations. They didn’t just provide a friendly ear but also gave solutions, helping us with mentors, training, and continuing education so there wouldn’t be an excuse not to hire or promote us.
Mr. Quinn’s role was largely as a cheerleader. He celebrated our achievements as if they were his own or his children’s. To the Chips Quinn Scholars, he rarely mentioned his legendary role in journalism, which included president of Gannett News Service, vice president of news at Gannett, the largest newspaper chain the country, and the deputy chairman of the Freedom Forum, which later (Read More)