Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb (ABJ ’75) graduated from Grady College with a bachelor’s degree in newspaper journalism. She spent 22 years working as an assignment editor on the local news desk, newsroom director of training and as obituary editor for The Washington Post before retiring in 2008. She then became an adjunct journalism professor at two different universities in Washington, D.C. before making her way back to Georgia. Now, she serves as president of The Earl T. Shinhoster Youth Leadership Institute in Savannah.
What has been your greatest accomplishment since graduating from Grady College?
I have been blessed to experience several professional and personal accomplishments since graduating from Grady College. I worked with some of the best journalists in Atlanta, Macon, Tampa, and in the nation’s capital at The Washington Post. I wrote or edited many first drafts of history, as former Post publisher Philip L. Graham called journalism. Throughout my career I was able to contribute to the history of numerous consequential events and people’s stories, including those that rendered more accurate portrayals of African Americans in newspapers.
When I moved from being a reporter to an editor in my career, I gained a seat at decision-making tables and advocated for truth and fairness in coverage. I did what I could to make sure that African Americans and other marginalized people were fairly and accurately depicted in the press.
For more than 30 years, journalism filled my life like a calling more than a career. My time on the obituary desk during my last years at the Post allowed me to return to writing and helped me filled a gnawing in my spirit for a more meaningful connection to the work I did. After leaving the Post, I co-founded a blog network for and about black women and published two children’s books and a book on prayer. I was recognized as a journalism trailblazer in 2018 in my hometown. I also found my way to seminary. I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. with a Master of Theological Studies, and in 2019 became an ordained Baptist minister. This for me is a major accomplishment, perhaps my greatest. Well, in addition to being married to a great guy, having two wonderful children, and being energized by three beautiful grand-girls.
What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?
I will always remember two classes at the Grady College that helped to shape my career as a journalist. Dr. Beverly Bethune’s journalism course was one of them. I learned fundamentals that I applied and sharpened over the years. Dr. Bethune’s class prepared me to tackle my first newspaper internship, a stint on the campus newspaper The Red and Black, and the editorship of PAMAJO, the black student newspaper.
The other class that bolstered my writing skills and confidence was a magazine writing course that I took with Dr. John English. That course took me outside the campus and into the community. My writing, insights, and instincts about what makes an exceptional story improved with Dr. English’s instruction. Over the years, I reconnected with Dr. English at the Southern Regional Press Institute at Savannah State University where we shared our knowledge with new crops of potential newspaper and broadcast journalists. In 2016, Dr. English and I were both inducted into the press institute’s inaugural Hall of Fame. That was a full circle moment for me, first because I began attending the press institute in high school and because Dr. English was with me among the honorees.
Finally, I will never forget being in a session at the J-School with Robert Johnson, the editor of Jet Magazine. Jet and Ebony magazines were essential reading in African American homes in the 1970s. Johnson was speaking to journalism students, mostly African Americans as I recall. He urged us to “tell our own stories.” To this day, I encourage individuals whose remarkable stories would go untold to do the same.
What does the recent movement to continue the fight for racial justice mean to you personally and professionally?
Our country and our world are at such a critical juncture right now. I am both heartened and sadden by the current fight for racial justice and democracy. I am encouraged that a new generation of young leaders from all sectors of society have taken up the fight in light of the resurgence of racial hostilities, deadly police aggression especially against black and brown people, violence against Asians, and Reconstruction-era legislative policies of voter suppression. It is unfortunate that this fight is continuing after hard years of struggle, tears, and bloodshed by so many who dedicated their lives to the cause of justice and equality. It is my hope and my prayer that one day we will arrive at a point in this country where we can look at each other with an appreciation for the differences we all bring to the world. That we will seek and find common ground, and that the rudeness, incivility, and hatred that are so prevalent today will be silenced by good people rising up and saying enough is enough.
As a former journalist, I am appalled by the misinformation, half-truths and lies that have coalesced to try to dismantle the fight for racial justice and basic human rights and decency. The need to continue the fight remains as strong as ever; the need for vigorous, fair, and accurate media is more important than ever. As a minister, I see this fight as a just one that calls us all to carry out the commandments Jesus gave us: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbors as yourselves.
What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?
I would give this advice to today’s Grady College students and young professionals. Research, report and write the truth. Sift critically through the political spins, false narratives, and cacophony of shill voices to bring light and heat to your reporting. Be careful not to become the story. Investigate the theories and stories that really do not make sense, that cause more harm than good, that drive us to become more ignorant than curious about each other. More than ever we need truth seekers, not sensation-provocateurs to help shore up our world for those of us here now and for generations to come.