Take It from Me: Linda Lockhart
Teacher. Journalist. Cautious Trailblazer.
By Diane Kline
Linda Lockhart had planned to become a teacher, but an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch changed the direction of her life: She learned about a scholarship created by the newspaper to encourage African-American students to study journalism. After applying for and winning the scholarship, Lockhart launched a career that has spanned four decades in a variety of editorial positions at the Post-Dispatch and other publications.
Now the outreach and engagement editor at St. Louis Public Radio, Lockhart is in charge of the Public Insight Network, which is designed to provide sources for stories that reflect the community’s diversity, including geography, ethnicity and socio-economic levels.
Lockhart was among the founders of the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists, and is also committed to mentoring African-American students who want to enter the field. She and her husband, Steve Korris, also a journalist, have raised a son and daughter, and now spend time doting on their two grandchildren.
I was Linda, “the black girl,” but I was also just Linda.
I was the first African-American to graduate from Lutheran High School South. I was a book nerd and worked on the newspaper. I had friends but it was lonely. No one asked me on a date or gave me a love note. My best friend told me, “I can’t invite you to my sleepover because my mother is worried about what the neighbors will think.” Today, I live in that same neighborhood.
My grandfather made it clear that I couldn’t be a Veiled Prophet princess.
Subtle things defined racism for me as a child. At 7 years old, I watched the Veiled Prophet ball on television, mesmerized by the girls in beautiful white gowns making deep curtsies. “I can be a princess, too,” I told my grandfather. He gently rubbed my hand, looked at my brown skin and said, “No, you can’t.”
Listen to your mamas…they will never steer you wrong.
My mother read about the Post-Dispatch scholarship. It covered college tuition to study journalism, summer employment and a guaranteed position after graduation. I’d never fathomed a journalism career because no people of color were on the news. But mom declared, “You’re going to get this.” And I did!
Don’t let anyone know how badly they’re hurting you.
I was one of the first African Americans to cover the nightside police beat when the cops didn’t like reporters—or women. They’d say, “Let’s go into the interrogation room and I’ll show you some things.” I refused to show how much it bothered me. As a black person and a woman, I learned this over the years.
I am dedicated to teaching journalism to black students.
They need the right foundation to be competitive. We began the very first workshop in the country for high school kids. We had no funding. We’d patch together a few dollars to buy the kids White Castle burgers (only one each!). Forty years later, we’ve reached 1,000 students, and the graduates are working across the country, including Russ Mitchell (former anchor at CBS), and Marcia Davis at The Washington Post.
I am cautious, methodical, and afraid of risks.
I don’t step out in faith. Instead, I look for good opportunities and think carefully before leaping. Every step of my career, somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Here’s something you’d be good at.”
We taught our children that they didn’t have to fit into anybody’s mold.
My husband is white, and we were featured in a 1985 Ebony magazine story about multicultural families. People saw my husband with our kids and assumed they were adopted. And sometimes they assumed I was their nanny. My children had to think about race and had some hard times with friends.
I come from a long line of survivors.
My relatives didn’t die in slavery or in a lynching. So I have to survive; I can’t give up. Religious faith has gotten me through a lot. When I’m faced with adversity, I keep calm, speak my peace and then come home to cry. I wish we could all focus on what we have in common rather than our differences because everybody has something to bring to the table—whether it’s egg rolls, kimchi or fried chicken!