The Times-Dispatch runs Michael Paul Williams' acceptance speech for the acclaimed George Mason Award from the Virginia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The TD columnist puts his work in perspective, but he also illustrates how much Richmond has changed in the 28 years since he first wandered into the newsroom:
But here, I’m guilty of sensationalizing. There’s always the other side of the story. For 18 years, I have been the beneficiary of an outpouring of support and affection from all segments of the community. The positives — my engagement with readers, the support of my colleagues, a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard with journalists from all over the world — have far outweighed the negatives. Each day brings validation that what I do — what we all do as journalists — has meaning.
I recently wrote an article proposing a Richmond monuments tour to put our statues — particularly those on Monument Avenue — in their proper historical context. One response made me particularly happy, not so much because he agreed with me but because it showed that people, in such a rigidly polarized society, are always capable of change.
The caller described himself as “A black Afro American, 76 years old.” Regarding the Confederate monuments, he said: “I never looked at it or thought that way. I was one of those who were adamant about tearing them down .¤.¤. but it has a history. I commend you for your vision and your thoughtfulness.”
Trying to change minds, or at least have people weigh their opinions through my written challenge, became my calling.
He also speaks about the many challenges facing his profession, and leaves his audience (and readers) with solid advice:
Amen, Mike. Congratulations. And thanks.