As a network news reporter, Malvin Russell Goode (1908–1995) was the first African American to hold a regular on-air job in the journalism field. He started out in radio news in Pittsburgh before he was hired by ABC television to cover the United Nations in New York City. The move made his career. He stayed in this post for 20 years, inspiring other journalists to follow in his footsteps. He covered civil rights marches and brought civil rights issues to the public eye. He was praised by other journalists as an honest reporter, and he showed a professionalism that impressed everyone he met.
Humble Beginnings in Pennsylvania
Goode was born on February 13, 1908, in White Plains, Virginia, but his family moved to Homestead, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh when he was very young. He was the third of four boys and two girls: James, William, Mary, Allan, and Ruth. His grandparents had once been slaves, and their history informed Goode's entire family life, giving them ambition and determination. His mother went to West Virginia State University. A great proponent of education, she stressed its importance to her children. Goode would remember these lessons for the rest of his life as can be seen by his determination and his interest in events that affected the world.
His father had very little education, but was a hard worker and stressed to his children the importance of finding
Started Out in a Steel Mill
Goode grew up and attended school in Homestead, Pennsylvania. During high school he got a job working nights at the steel mill where his father worked, and he continued working there throughout his college years at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1931, but he continued his steel mill job after graduation, staying there until 1936 because jobs were hard to find during the Great Depression. He felt his luck at having such a good job, and spent time putting aside money for the future.
In 1936 Goode managed to get a different job, this time as a probation officer for Pittsburgh's juvenile court. He also worked as a director of boys' works at the Pittsburgh Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). At that time the YMCA offered many inspirational and popular programs for urban children and for the community at large. Goode worked hard to rid the YMCA of some of its discrimination, which was rampant at the time, and he had some success in his endeavors. Sometime in the 1940s Goode took on the position of manager at the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, where he stayed for six years.
Entered Field of Journalism
It was not until 1948, when Goode was 40 years old, that he began a career in journalism, although it was something he had long considered. He was offered a job at the Pittsburgh Courier , Pittsburgh's premiere African-American newspaper. At that time the Courier was the most popular and bestselling paper of its type in the United States. Goode then decided to try his hand at some another form of broadcasting, moving over to include radio broadcasts in his working life. He began with a 15-minute news show for the station KQV.
It seemed he had found his calling, for he not only enjoyed the work, he was also good at it. From this one small radio job Goode moved to the station WHOD to do a daily five-minute broadcast, a consistent job that allowed Goode to gain much experience in the world of broadcasting. This was expanded into a full-blown news show that Goode took on with his sister Mary. He became the news director of WHOD radio station in 1952. He had not, however, lost his love of print journalism, and he kept his job at the Courier , later becoming the first African-American member of the National Association of Radio and Television News Directors.
First Black Reporter for ABC News
In 1962 ABC News was looking for an African-American reporter. They realized that their base of reporters was all white, and they set out to rectify this problem. Goode was recommended to ABC by one of his friends, baseball player Jackie Robinson, and was chosen from among nearly 40 candidates. He won the position because of his skill and professionalism, and in a history-making event, he was assigned to cover the United Nations in New York City, a job coveted by many reporters. He was the first black reporter hired by ABC.
Only a few months after he took the job with ABC, Goode had to cover the Cuban missile crisis, when it looked like the United States and the Soviet Union might go to war because of the presence of Russian nuclear weapons in Cuba. Goode covered the debates on the topic at the United Nations, taking the difficult and contentious subject and making it accessible to Americans everywhere. He was said to have distinguished himself in the reporting, leading the way for more equality in news coverage across the country. Whereas previously the news had centered around white concerns and issues, there began to be more news about under-represented minorities. This became especially obvious in the 1960s when race riots occurred in Detroit, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. News teams had a hard time covering both sides of the story, and there were few reporters who could do so. Goode was one of the few who was sent in to cover the riots, and he did so with respect and sympathy.
Goode Refused to Be Pigeon-Holed
Goode went on to cover such important issues as the assassination of Malcolm X and the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. But he refused to be pigeonholed into writing only about the subject of race. He covered everything and anything newsworthy that he found to be of interest to him and of importance in the world. He was a huge proponent of journalists helping young people become good future journalists. With that idea in mind, in 1963 Goode took a trip overseas with other black colleagues to help teach journalism in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
Goode remained working at the United Nations until the 1980s. He then left that post to become a consultant for ABC, although he kept an office at the United Nations Building until he was almost 80 years old and retired from journalism. He also sometimes reported on international affairs for the National Black Network, and was often asked to speak in public about his years as a journalist and about current affairs, as well as civil rights and important events going on at the United Nations.
Goode married Mary Lavelle, with whom he would eventually have six children: Robert, Malvin Jr., Richard, Ronald, Roberta, and Rosalia. He died of a stroke in 1995, at the age of 87, at Margret's Memorial Hospital in Pittsburgh. Those attending his funeral at Pittsburgh's Lincoln Avenue Church of God recalled all the wonderful things he had done as a journalist. Jet magazine quoted Peter Jennings, a fellow journalist, as having said that "Mal could have very sharp elbows. If he was on a civil rights story and anyone even appeared to give him any grief because he was black he made it more than clear that this was now a free country…. He taught us a lot."
Throughout his lifetime Goode was sought after for public appearances, and he was a member of numerous organizations, including the Association of Radio-TV Analysts, the National Association of Radio and TV News Directors, and the United Nations Correspondents Association, for which he served as president in 1972. Also in 1972 Goode took his place in the President's Plan for Progress Committee alongside other corporate representatives. He was a member of 100 Black Men in New York. He consulted with the National Black Network and was a trustee for the First Baptist Church of Teaneck, New Jersey.
Goode acquired many awards during his career, including the Mary McLeod Bethune Award from Bethune-Cookman College and the Michelle Clark Award from Columbia University School of Journalism. In 1972 he received the Polish Government Award from the United Nations. In 1964 he was named Man of the Year by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and was given their Award of Merit. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Goode always remembered friends and family in his hometown of Homestead. He often returned there for homecoming at his boyhood church of Clark Memorial. Goode's creeds of life came from his parents: 'It does not cost you anything to treat people right' and 'You're no better than anyone else, and no one else is any better than you … now go out and prove it!'" And it would seem that that was exactly what he did.
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