Deb Price, First Nationally Syndicated Columnist on Gay Life, Dies at 62Breaking News
tags: obituaries, journalism, LGBTQ history
Appearing in the Detroit News in 1992, Deb Price’s debut column ended with a question that spurred a flood of letters from readers and vaulted her to national attention: “So tell me, America, how do I introduce Joyce?”
Ms. Price, a 34-year-old editor who helped lead the News’s Washington bureau, was referring to Joyce Murdoch, “the woman I’ve lived with for six years.” “Partner” was not yet a standard term for gay coupledom, and she was struggling to find the right words to describe a person who, she noted, could be variously called her “girlfriend,” “significant other,” “longtime companion,” “life partner” or “lover.”
“Maybe we should seize a word, as we did with ‘gay,’ and make it ours,” Ms. Price wrote. “Or is it simply part of gay culture to have a love that answers to many names?”
The column heralded Ms. Price as the first nationally syndicated columnist on gay life and introduced the mainstream media’s first weekly column written from a gay perspective. And it arrived at a critical point for many gay journalists.
Through the AIDS crisis and the gay rights movement, the tapestry of gay life in the United States was simply news, and it was not always covered with nuance. A few media outlets openly recruited gay journalists to their staffs, while in other newsrooms, some journalists felt jobs were closed to them because they were openly gay.
“Being in the closet is a real mistake for a journalist,” Ms. Price once told The Washington Post, where she was a copy editor before joining the News in 1989. “It’s an asset for a newspaper to have openly gay journalists in the same way that having African Americans or Hispanics or people with disabilities is an asset.”
Ms. Price, who died of an autoimmune lung disease on Nov. 20 at age 62, wrote 900 columns during the next 18 years, with a mission “to bridge a gap between the gay and heterosexual communities, to get an open and honest dialogue started.”
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