Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lady Reporter

That’s what they used to call women in journalism: Lady Reporters. Cute, huh? And they stuck ‘em on the society desk to write about Margaret Mitchell’s little book, charity events and the Junior League. Well, Atlantan Katie Johnson wasn’t having any of that! Instead, she made the Civil Rights beat in the South during the sixties her own while working for the AP.

Johnson has had plenty of opportunities to tell her stories lately. The retired reporter, who covered the civil rights movement for the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press, figures prominently in a new history of the wire service, “Breaking News” (Princeton Architectural Press). The book, which traces the world’s largest news organization from the Civil War to the war in Iraq, devotes a chapter to the rights struggle of the 1950s and ’60s. Johnson practically jumps off the pages.

Though she hasn’t worked for the AP in 30 years, it has given her quite a few assignments recently. She was summoned to New York for an oral history session. She appeared on a National Press Club panel that was broadcast on C-SPAN’s Book TV. She was invited to be on the program at the 50th anniversary of the Little Rock desegregation crisis next month, even though she had nothing to do with that story.

“They’re treating me like a celebrity,” she says, laughing. “They sure didn’t treat me like that when I worked for them.”

Full story here. What’s baffling and shameful is that Ms. Johnson isn’t given so much as a footnote in the “The Race Beat,” the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning book about reporting the Civil Rights movement by Hank Klibanoff, a managing editor at the AJC. What a glaring omission.

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