Leading Washington Post columnist named VCU’s 2000 Virginius Dabney Distinguished Professor

Dorothy Gilliam to Teach Course at VCU

Dorothy Gilliam, a reporter, editor and columnist at The Washington Post for more than 25 years, has been selected this year’s Virginia Commonwealth University Virginius Dabney Distinguished Professor. The professorship was established in 1988 through an endowment from Richmond Newspapers Inc. and its parent company, Media General Inc. It offers VCU students, faculty and media professionals the opportunity to interact with and learn from a nationally prominent journalist.

Gilliam, director of the Young Journalists Development Program at The Washington Post, will teach an intensive course on feature writing at VCU’s School of Mass Communications from March 26-30. The three-credit course is open to upper-division students in VCU’s news editorial track and graduate students in the English department. It will explore how society is divided by race, class, gender, geography and generation. Gilliam will discuss how understanding these "fault lines" is crucial to recognizing and writing fair and balanced journalism.

Gilliam joined The Washington Post in 1961 as a general assignment reporter after serving as an editor of Jet magazine for two years. She left the newspaper in the mid-1960s to spend more time with her children, and worked part-time as a television reporter and free-lance writer.

Gilliam returned to The Washington Post in 1972 as assistant editor of the Style section. In 1979, she began writing a Metro column covering education, politics and race as well as her personal experiences.

Since 1997, she has directed the Young Journalists Development Program, which encourages high school and college students to pursue careers in journalism.

Gilliam has received numerous honors, including the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Alumni of the Year Award, the University of Missouri Honor Medal in Journalism and the Journalist of the Year award from the Capital Press Club.

She is a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a member of the group’s Hall of Fame. Gilliam also has chaired the board of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in California. It was Maynard, the late publisher of the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, who originated the "fault lines" concept that Gilliam will discuss in her course at VCU.

Virginius Dabney, for whom the VCU professorship was named, was editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 1936-69 and author of several books on Virginia history. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his editorials against racial segregation and the poll tax. A member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, Dabney died in 1995.

Previous Virginius Dabney Distinguished Professors have included James J. Kilpatrick, columnist, author and former editor of the Richmond News Leader; David Shribman, a Pulitzer-winning journalist at The Boston Globe; Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington bureau chief for Fortune magazine; and Tommy Denton, editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. Gilliam is the seventh journalist to serve as a Dabney Professor.