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My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times Hardcover – February 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Boyd's appointment to the role of managing editor of the New York Times in 2001 made him the first African-American to hold one of the paper's top two editing positions, and his leadership helped the Times garner numerous Pulitzers. But colleagues found him gruff and imposing—a perception he attributed to racial bias—and he was forced to resign after a young reporter named Jayson Blair was caught plagiarizing and fabricating stories in 2003. In this memoir, Boyd, who died in 2006, comes across as a relentlessly ambitious man who overcame poverty, racism, and a rocky personal life to become one of the most powerful newsmen of his day. Unfortunately, Boyd proves to be a merely competent narrator: the prose is smooth but lacks flair, and the vignettes themselves are disappointingly dry. The notable exception is the treatment of the Blair scandal: Boyd's blow-by-blow is animated by indignation and gives a rare glimpse into the rancorous world of newsroom politics. Although as a source of objective truth the memoir is more suspect than a news story, Boyd's perspective is crucial to understanding the crisis that unfolded at the Times in 2003. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Boyd’s brilliant career as a journalist, from a reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rising to managing editor of the New York Times, will unfortunately be remembered for the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal in 2003. In this powerful memoir, Boyd recalls his climb from poverty, love of journalism, and thirst for racial equality. From his college days, Boyd challenged the limitations set for minorities in journalism, helping to develop scholarships and training programs for minorities interested in journalism. But the newspaper he most loved proved to be the greatest challenge to his convictions. Boyd recalls racial animosity in the newsroom, tensions that came to a boil when he and Executive Editor Howell Raines were blamed as Blair’s transgressions came to light and threatened the credibility of the venerable New York Times. Boyd, under whose tenure the paper won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, lays bare his own insecurities, the massive egos of some colleagues, and internecine battles over news coverage. He recalls his struggle to recover from his fall from grace as the first black editor of the paper in its 150-year history and with cancer (which took his life in 2006). Photographs, recollections of friends and colleagues, and an afterword by Boyd’s widow, writer Robin Stone, add further dimension to this poignant memoir and candid look at race and newsgathering. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155652952X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556529528
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,803,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Seth Faison on February 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was deeply absorbed by this book. It is a revealing portrait of a talented and troubled man, a newspaper journalist who succeeded, whose ambition ate at him, and who retained a touching humanity perhaps half of his time at the top. He ultimately fell victim, both to unlucky timing and to the blindness that can come with ambition.

My views are subjective. I knew Gerald Boyd. I am one of many hundreds of journalists who worked with him and, in my case, had him as a boss when he was the editor of Metro section of the New York Times, where I was a reporter. I thought he was an uneven leader. He could be insightful, intimidating, charming, instructive, rudely dismissive, and also a bestower of tough love. His positive attributes rained on me when I was in favor with more senior editors, and his negatives came when I stumbled. I was not one of his favorite reporters, but I had my moments. I was in the middling crowd, those who needed better guidance from him. And yet the limited guidance he did give, when he spoke honestly and even tenderly to me, was among the most effective I ever got.

His personal story is remarkable. It is one thing to hear vaguely, as we all did on the Metro desk, that he was raised poor in East St. Louis. It is quite another to read about what it was like to go to his mother's funeral at age 3, to go hungry, to use his smarts and charm, leavened by his innate caution and fear, to see chances and make the most of them.

Race is a steadily undulating theme in this book. Boyd describes his growing consciousness, as a child, of black and white worlds of St. Louis. His militant episodes at college, when he changed his name to "Uganda X" are a comic backdrop for his constructive activism there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Gerald Boyd was a young boy in St. Louis, Missouri, he helped a neighbor boy sell the New York Times on Sundays. How fitting that he would come full circle ascending to the position as managing editor, second-in-command at the most prestigious newspaper in the country. He tells his story in My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times.

Boyd grew up poor, motherless and by the time he was 11 years old, his father had abandoned him and his brother, Gary, while his sister moved to California with an aunt. His beloved grandmother, Evie, did all she could for Gerald, Gary and their two cousins but the sting of poverty was ever present. Rice was a staple and he got used to holes in his shoes and not getting any real toys for Christmas. In high school, he was a good student and joined the school newspaper in high school. He set his sights on a career in journalism after completing a summer program at a college between his junior and senior year--- and the New York Times was the prize he pursued. He received a scholarship to the University of Missouri and an internship with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was on his way to being a newspaperman.

Discouraged by the rampant racism on campus, Boyd got involved with the Legion of Black Collegians and started a black newspaper, Blackout. He was drawn to politics, and majored in both journalism and political science, ran for student office and staged protests against racism. He also met the woman he would marry after college graduation, Sheila Rule, also a journalism major. They settled down as reporters at the Post-Dispatch after graduation with his eyes on the prize--the New York Times. He was ambitious and moved up in rank, covering City Hall but along the way his marriage failed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. E. Roots on July 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I met Robin Stone at Warmdaddy's in Philadelphia during her book signing. I knew little about the book, little about the man the book features, and nothing about her. I hurriedly had her sign my book and we shared a few words where I promised I'd write a review on Here it is Robin...

I was so caught up in the story from cover to cover. Early on it was the typical Black American family saga of moving from the south seeking work in the north and making the necessary adjustments to survive. Reading how and why Gerald Boyd was raised by grandmom who provided just enough for him to become his own man could almost be considered everyday Black American folklore.

The story started to engage me as Boyd detailed his college years and how he developed his passion for writing. As he took his first job it was obvious that he was a man that would not settle for a small role in anything he did and was stimulated by challenges.

Those challenges came very early in his career along with opportunities to demonstrate his willingness to work hard and produce stellar results with the best of them. He openly shares the personal side of his life of how he struggled with relationships but he never let it affect his career which appeared to be his greatest love.

Once Boyd joins the New York Times and particularly when he takes on management responsibilities he presents a clear picture of how office politics, ego, race and gender plays out in employee development, business growth and company reputation. Yet, he also shows how you can work effectively with people you don't like (or with people who don't like you) if you are committed to the same goal.

For those of us who have been `played' by corporations, Boyd's story could open old wounds.
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