KENT, Ohio — Robert G. McGruder was a trail-blazing journalist.
His resume consisted of many “firsts,” including being the first black editor of the Daily Kent Stater and the first black reporter at The Plain Dealer in 1963.
He was also the first black president of the Associated Press Managing Editors group in 1995, and the first black executive editor at the Detroit Free Press in 1996.
Although his life came to an end in April 2002 at the age of 60, his legacy continues.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12 at Kent State University, Margaret Bernstein, director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC Studios was honored with the McGruder Distinguished Lecture Award for her commitment to diversity.
“Today, I am very clear that I am walking in the footsteps of a giant,” said Bernstein in her acceptance speech. “I always wanted to write the stories that I thought were being overlooked about people of color.”
In 1982 Bernstein’s journalism career started at a Black weekly newspaper called The Wave. Then in 1989, she became a feature writer at The Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she missed working with Robert G. McGruder by three years. At the Plain Dealer, Bernstein co-wrote the Imperial Ave series.
“I felt like we owed it to these women to tell their stories,” said Bernstein. "This was the hardest assignment I ever had.”
She also profiled three men who had defeated the cycle of fatherlessness. This story hit the front page of the newspaper.
From paper to a television screen, Bernstein’s commitment to defying stereotypes of people of color often displayed in the news continues today at WKYC Studios.
In addition to her role as director of advocacy and community initiatives, she also serves as the executive producer of We The People, WKYC Studios community show and is a part of a team that produces a program called A Turning Point, covering stories on systemic racism.
“Margaret has the same fervent commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as the journalist who inspired this honor,” said Micki Byrnes, President, and General Manager of WKYC Studios. “She understands and utilizes our media platforms to better represent all members of our Northeast Ohio community. She is a passionate advocate of literacy and accessible education and is so deserving of this Award.”