Monica Richardson had an epiphany early in her career. While covering education at The Florida Times-Union, Richardson wanted to sit with the copy desk and learn different aspects of how the paper worked.
“And they said to me, ‘We’re not ready for you to do that yet.’ I remember thinking, it’s not what you’re ready for me to do, it’s what I’m ready for me to do.”
“I had this moment of realization that my career belonged to me.”
Richardson’s now the executive editor of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, leading a newsroom that’s been through months of intense and overlapping breaking news, from the collapse of the Surfside condo (“That building was like a microcosm of South Florida,” she said,) to the assassination of Haiti’s president to protests in support of the people of Cuba.
And she feels like people are relying on local news now more than ever.
“McClatchy’s investment in newsrooms and the company’s mission around the issue of inclusion are a significant factor in our success as well as meeting the needs of our diverse audience,” she said.
Richardson learned early on that her path was her own. Her work in Miami is providing another lesson.
In July, she wrote about a brutal and racist email she got after the Herald reported in an editorial that Florida Gov. Ron “DeSantis’ anti-riot law didn’t apply as Cuba protesters shut down a Miami-Dade road.”
“I was raised humble, raised to turn the other cheek and be the bigger person, to move on and get over it,” Richardson wrote. “That’s a smart lesson and a smart way to move through life at times. This isn’t one of those times. As a Black woman, I refuse to oblige the various ways that some people seem to demand that I simply take what they give. To the contrary, hate can’t be solved with silence. The reality is that the silence is as loud as the injustice of racism itself.”
With her piece, Richardson said, she wanted to expose something that was happening and, as a Black woman and community leader, show that that hate doesn’t have to be tolerated.
Last week, Katrice Hardy was named the executive editor of The Dallas Morning News and Maria Reeve was named the editor of the Houston Chronicle. Along with Richardson, they are the first Black women to serve in those roles.
“These are new opportunities for women to showcase what we already know, which is we work hard and we kick ass. I celebrate with them,” Richardson said. “I’m so excited to see that happen in the spirit of great journalism. On top of being great people, these are super journalists.”
I asked what she’d tell young journalists now. Her current advice is as powerful what she discovered years ago:
“Make the most of every opportunity and always keep the mission of journalism in the forefront of everything you do. … Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Then use that as the guide for everything you do in your career,” she said. “On a more personal note, something I always live by is to never let anyone or anything steal your joy. I became a journalist because making a difference brought me joy. I won’t let anyone or anything take that from me.”
This piece originally appeared in Local Edition, our newsletter devoted to the telling stories of local journalists