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Howard University > News Room
Press Release
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By Teyonna Ridgeway
University News Wire
     
http://www.howard.edu/newsroom/      

Howard Remembers Path-breaking Journalist and Professor Lee Thornton


Lee Thornton

WASHINGTON (October 2, 2013) – The Howard University community is paying tribute to Lee Thornton, Ph.D., a former Howard University professor and, as a correspondent for CBS News, the first African-American woman journalist to cover the White House for a major news network. Thornton passed away on Sept. 25, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71.

Thornton joined the Howard faculty in 1983. She taught broadcast journalism for 14 years and helped build the department into a leading program. As a professor and a mentor, she helped launch the careers of many Howard students who later became top network correspondents and anchors, including Michelle Miller of CBS News, Fredricka Whitfield of CNN, and Lesli Foster of WUSA-9 in Washington.

“My students are absolutely everywhere,” Thornton told an interviewer in 2007. “If I have a legacy, they are it. That’s as good as it gets for a career.”

While at Howard, Thornton produced and moderated a Channel 32 (now WHUT) program called Pro and Con, which covered diversity issues and featured Howard faculty.  She contributed to the book Split Image: African Americans in the Mass Media, where she examined the experiences of Black broadcast journalists in the mass media.

During her career as a journalist, Thornton blazed a new path for minorities. She was the first Black host of NPR’s popular news show All Things Considered and the senior producer of CNN’s Both Sides with Jesse Jackson, a pioneering public affairs program that reached a large minority audience.

Following her years at Howard, Thornton taught at the University of Maryland until her retirement in 2010. Thornton earned her doctorate in radio, television and film studies from Northwestern University and attended Michigan State University as an undergraduate.

Thornton’s success often made an indelible impression on Black women in the media world. Bishetta Merritt, Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film, described her delight in taking a course taught by Thornton at Ohio State University. Thornton, while working as reporter in Cincinnati, traveled to the university campus teach the class.

“It was so unusual to have a Black female professor at the time,” Merritt said. “She was a phenomenal teacher. She was thorough, she was knowledgeable, she was demanding. She didn’t take excuses. She was a deadline person. You had to have stories ready.”

Later, Merritt worked alongside Thornton in the School of Communication at Howard. Merritt said Thornton deserves credit for preparing a generation of African-American broadcast professionals.

“She helped change newsroom – through her own personal contribution and also through the students she sent out in the world,” Merritt said.


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