Famed journalist visits SGJC, shares new book

Bonnie Newman Davis visited the School of Global Journalism and Communications on May 4 to discuss her new book, Truth Tellers: The Power and Presence of Black Women Journalists Since 1960.


Alex Ederson, Co-Sports Editor

Bonnie Newman Davis, managing editor of the Richmond Free Press, visited Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication on May 4 to discuss Truth Tellers: The Power and Presence of Black Women Journalists Since 1960 before a panel of students and professors.

Newman Davis is highly esteemed in the world of journalism and currently serves as CEO of the BND Institute of Media and Culture. 

Professor Wayne Dawkins, also serving as a board member of BNDIMC said, “We’ve known each other a long time.”

Newman Davis remembers getting the idea for the book after interviewing someone she considers a mentor, Dorothy Butler Gilliam. Gilliam was one of the first to be critical of Newman Davis’s work during her years in undergrad at North Carolina A&T State University. 

“I remember doing a story about Dorothy Gilliam, who I consider a mentor. She was one of the first women to critique my work when I was still a student and Dorothy was an award winning Washington Post columnist … so that really is what prompted the ideas that I would write about Black Women Journalists.”

She highlights Black women in journalism because she saw that throughout her time in academia and journalism, Black men were at the center of attention for articles and on the covers of books and magazines.

Newman Davis said, “As editor … I noticed that a lot of the features and profiles were about, like male journalists and rarely were women, like Women Journalists featured. There was some here, here and there who might be inside the magazine, but not necessarily on the cover.”

The interviews for Truth Tellers began in 2015, according to Newman Davis, but writing did not start on the project until 2020. She had first decided on interviewing 30 women for her project but narrowed it down to 24 as she spent time on her travels.

“Started on it in 2015 and started interviewing various women. I didn’t know how many it would be (at the time), it is 24 women, but I was very ambitious,” she said.

Her ambitions took her seven years to fully research and write but Newman Davis did not “consider it really that long” as there were others in her field that took twice the amount of time.

For Newman Davis, the creative process is one that takes time and is always changing. She reinterviewed multiple women that are featured in Truth Tellers. 

She is frank with her audience about why the process took as long as it did. “I didn’t know, to be honest, what I was doing.” Newman Davis laughs calmly as she addresses the crowd but only for a brief moment. “I envisioned the book as being … just little short anecdotes … real feature-like about the women, just … capturing more their personality than … the root of their profession.”

Newman Davis credits DeWayne Wickham, founding dean of SGJC, as someone who is “really responsible for a lot of my success over the last 20 years.” 

He worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch at the same time as Newman Davis and she said he went great lengths to back Newman Davis. Wickham said, “These women aren’t household names. This book, hopefully, will change that.”

Newman Davis at the end took questions from an excited crowd of Morgan students who were interested in Journalism. She took a wide variety of questions for 30 minutes, ranging from how she dealt with meeting famous individuals, to allowing others input on her project, and what the toll was like on her as she moved around across her storied career in journalism. 

She ended the event with a book signing where she took some more questions, while signing copies of her book. She was asked if she thought there was an issue with nepotism in journalism.

Nepotism in terms of actually being related to someone, I think at one time did exist. And … like with anything even, journalism (is nepotistic) to a certain degree, but knowing someone helps you get your foot in the door … yeah, it definitely helps to have … a strong recommendation from someone in the industry, who can help give a leg up, which is why organizations such as NABJ are so important.”