By Arlene Notoro Morgan
Acel Moore – A Journalism Icon
In his 50 years as a journalist in Philadelphia, Acel Moore made a difference almost from the moment he entered The Philadelphia Inquirer newsroom.
Moore arrived at paper, then owned by Walter Annenberg, fresh out of military service in 1962. There were very few Blacks in the newsroom and few women. He started as a copy boy but before long he was covering cops in a city that was seeing its share of racial tension during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and early 70s.
A 1958 graduate of Overbrook High School, Moore eventually became one of the first Blacks to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his investigative series on the brutal conditions at the Fairview State Hospital in Pennsylvania, a prison for criminals who suffered mental illness.
I will always cherish Acel Moore for taking me under his wing when I entered the newsroom in 1969. I was one of the first women on the news side. But what attracted Acel’s attention is that, like he, I grew up in South Philadelphia, known more the Italian Market and the Mafia than for growing reporters.
Acel taught me how to cover the streets and, above all, how to give voice to the voiceless, regardless of color.
Acel covered everything from gang violence and cop stories to features that showed the routine lives of working class people. He seemed to know everyone. And through his generous nature, he made sure that reporters like me got to know the grass roots leaders who were authentic. Acel could size up a phony in a minute.
To this day Acel can recall the names of the mothers who marched to end the gang violence that was plaguing the city in the early 70s. Acel Moore was the only journalist they trusted to tell their stories.
But Acel was never content to stroke his own ego. He wanted to see more reporters who looked like him in the newsroom and to press the case helped start the Philadelphia Association for Black Journalists in 1973. In 1975 he was one of the 44 founders of The National Association of Black Journalists. If you were around then, you knew how tough it was to get white editors to commit their precious hires to people who didn’t look like them. Unfortunately, it still is and Acel through his work with high school journalism programs is still at work to change that.
I have spent a lifetime following in Acel’s footsteps to ensure that equality in the newsroom. In 2007 when I published “The Authentic Voice,” a textbook about the coverage of race, I dedicated it in part to Acel for showing me the way.
No matter how many stars have resulted from the legacy days of The Inquirer – and there have been quite a few — no one can match Acel Moore’s contributions to the news media and to the journalists like me who he helped shape in the process.