Posted on 03/29/2011

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African American
Michele Clark
News Correspondent
From Gary
Gone too soon

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A Voice Silenced

A Voice Silenced
A talented and ambitious young woman, Michele Clark (1943 - 1972), quickly established herself as one of the best and brightest reporters on CBS television in the early 1970s. Within two years of completing her journalism training, she had become a reporter for the Democratic and Republican conventions, and then rose to a position as a national reporter on the network. She was the first black female news correspondent on CBS. Working at a time when television networks were trying to bring minorities and women into visible positions, Clark's rise was swift, her career brief, and her life "a promise unfilled."

Clark graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago. After graduation she worked a variety of jobs. She considered becoming a lawyer, but decided to enter the field of journalism. In May 1970, she joined CBS at its Chicago affiliate, WBBM-TV, as a newswriter. That summer she completed a program at Columbia University called Broadcast and Print Journalism for Minorities, and she returned the WBBM station as General Assignment Reporter. She was the only woman reporter at the station, a position she held for about one year.

The CBS news staff was immediately impressed with Clark's performance and considered her a good reporter. She received the kind of difficult and prestigious assignments that were usually restricted to men. Still based in Chicago, she was assigned to cover the 1972 presidential primaries. At the Democratic Convention she was promoted to correspondent. Clearly, CBS had big plans for her.

In 1972, Clark was reassigned to Washington DC where she was CBS News Washington correspondent and had a quasi-anchor slot for that summer and fall. She often commuted to Chicago where her family still lived. When she headed home for Christmas in 1972 to spend a month's vacation with her family, she was one of 44 people killed when a United Air Lines plane crashed on December 8th, near Chicago's Midway Airport.

Although a tragic accident ended a seemingly unlimited career, Clark was not to be forgotten. The journalism program she had completed at Columbia University, funded by CBS, NBC, and the Ford Foundation, was renamed the Michele Clark Fellowship Program for Minority Journalists in her honor. From its inception to 1974, when the program closed, 227 minority women and men were trained for employment in print and electronic media. The next year with a grant from the Gannett Foundation, the program was reinstated and relocated at the University of California at Berkley and renamed the Institute for Journalism Education.

When Clark completed her application in 1970 for the Columbia journalism program, she was not to know that her statement would become a credo for journalists of the future.

My vanity requires public recognition; my confidence requires
a mode of expression; my intelligence and training require an intellectual
challenge; my fear of boredom requires that routine be avoided; my ego
requires that I contribute something and become involved, and my great mistrust
and dislike for do-gooders requires that I be paid well for my services .....

There is also a Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School located in Chicago in honor of Clark.

Bio and Photo: Notable Black American Women by Jessie Carney Smith