Felicia R. Lee wrote 1,460 stories for the New York Times before she left the paper in December. Yesterday, she shared her insights with about 40 City College students in our Race & Reporting and Reporting and Writing courses.
Felicia began as a Metro reporter for the Times in late 1988 — and got thrown into the fray of covering New York in the bad old days. Her first story: The Central Park jogger case, in which five men of color were wrongly convicted of beating and raping a white woman. Reflecting back, she says she would’ve thought about the story differently today. “Being older and being a mother, I might’ve thought ‘these kids don’t have records, let’s look at the DNA, let’s retrace their steps,'” she told the class. “Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if there’d been a few people in key places that looked at things differently.”
More recently, she covered culture stories writing about Toni Morrison, the movie Selma and interviewing Oprah and Scandal’s Kerry Washington and many, many more. Though she enjoyed her days at the New York Times, she is clear about what it meant to be one of the fewer women of color working as a senior writer. “Yes, I’m lucky; I hit the jackpot,” Felicia said. “[But] I also realized this paper needs me as much as I need them.”
In the end, she felt grateful for the opportunity to share her experiences with our students. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said. “The country is changing. The media needs you–smart people with eyes open.”