When AIDS was an “Unmentionable”

Co-authors Samuel G. Freedman (pictured) and Kerry Donahue wanted to tell the story of how one man’s decisions changed the way The New York Times reported the AIDS crises. By bringing the disease “out of the closet”, the general population began the conversation on how to affect a cure.

Co-authors Samuel G. Freedman (pictured) and Kerry Donahue wanted to tell the story of how one man’s decisions changed the way The New York Times reported the AIDS crises. By bringing the disease “out of the closet”, the general population began the conversation on how to affect a cure. The Hudson Area Library is hosting a free author reading and book signing of “Dying Words, The AIDS Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed The New York Times.” Saturday, April 30, at 4pm in the Library’s Community Room.

The writer Andrew Sullivan, a former editor of The New Republic and conservative political blogger, is widely recognized as the man who defined the principles allowing same-sex marriage. He has been an activist in the LGBTQ movement and is recognized as one of the earliest voices demanding that gays be assimilated into the main stream population.

Here is his assessment of the book Dying Words, The AIDS Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed The New York Times:

Dying Words hit me like a ton of bricks: it brings back the terror, the trauma and the catharsis of the AIDS years by focusing on just one remarkable man. In this era of mass amnesia about the plague that devastated gay America, this book is not just haunting, it’s vital.

On Saturday, April 30 at 4pm, the Hudson Area Library will host a free author reading and book signing discussing the extraordinary story of the closeted gay journalist, Times reporter, Jeff Schmalz. The event is being held in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library.

“Schmalz was a journalistic prodigy,” said producer and co-author Kerry Donahue. “He was…regarded as the consummate Timesman.” Still, he kept his identity as a gay man secret from…management. “Under the executive editor A. M. Rosenthal,” says Donahue, “the Times newsroom of the 1970s and 80s was a homophobic place, and journalists known to be gay or lesbian were stalled or even demoted in their careers.”

“Jeff was my mentor,” added the book’s co-author Samuel Freedman, a journalist who currently writes a religion column for The New York Times. “I will never forget the day in December of 1990, when Jeff collapsed in the newsroom with a brain seizure. It was the first evidence that he had AIDS – a death sentence in those years before drug cocktails.” The resulting “outing” defined his calling. “He wrote about HIV and AIDS – doing memorable portraits of Magic Johnson, Mary Fisher and others, as well as chronicling his own experience reporting on the most personal beat imaginable.”

Schmalz’s work is credited with changing The New York Times coverage of gay issues. Today, just 22 years after his death at age 39, his contributions have been largely forgotten.

“Our hope is that “Dying Words” will restore Jeff’s name and work to the annals of LGBT history and journalistic history,” concluded Freedman.

The event at the Hudson Area Library is a collaboration with the Alliance for Positive Health. It is free to all. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the presentation.

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Two Hudson Events Further AIDS Awareness

Dying Words, author reading and book signing, to be held on Saturday, April 30 at 4pm at the Hudson Area Library.On April 28, several area restaurants are participating in “Dining Out for Life”. Visit Baba Louie’s, Ca’Mea Ristorante, Helsinki Hudson, Mexican Radio or Red Dot and 25% (or more) of the price of lunch and dinner will be donated to the Alliance for Positive Health. Funds provide direct services to people living with HIV/AIDS and their family members. Included are care management and prevention programs that offer effective, innovative solutions that make a significant impact on reducing new HIV infections.

Two days later, an appearance by co-authors Samuel G. Freedman and Kerry Donahue will focus on the life of journalist Jeff Schmalz. The book, Dying Words – The Aids Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed The New York Times, includes interviews with major journalists including Anna Quindlen, Adam Moss and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. It also features the words of Larry Kramer, Magic Johnson, Randy Shilts and Bill Clinton.

A fast-tracked gay writer at The New York Times, Schmalz was “outed” when he collapsed from a brain seizure in the newsroom. This incident was how he became aware that he was infected with HIV. It was also the beginning of his campaign to report openly about the disease that was killing him – and countless others. At a time when the newspaper of record chose not to acknowledge the epidemic, Schmalz spent his remaining professional life interviewing others stricken with the disease as well as those who worked to find its cause and create a cure.

Named by Capitol Hill staffers as the brainiest, funniest and most eloquent member of the House, former Congressmember Barney Frank said:

“[This book] is an important part of the story of the fight for LGBT equality in America that will come as a surprise even to many well-informed readers.”

The authors appearance and book signing takes place at 4PM on Saturday, April 30 in the Hudson Area Library Community Room, 51 North 5th Street, Hudson. This is a FREE event – co-sponsored by the Alliance for Positive Health.

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Changing The New York Times – One Death at a Time

When New York Times reporter Jeff Schmalz was unexpectedly “outed” at the paper in 1990, his world changed. Though his AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence in the days before drug cocktails, he used it as a way to doggedly move the paper forward. His story will be told at a reading and book signing on Saturday, April 30 beginning at 4pm in the Community room of the NEW Hudson Area Library, 51 North 5th Street.

When New York Times reporter Jeff Schmalz was unexpectedly “outed” at the paper in 1990, his world changed. Though his AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence in the days before drug cocktails, he used it as a way to doggedly move the paper forward. His story will be told at a reading and book signing on Saturday, April 30 beginning at 4pm in the Community room of the NEW Hudson Area Library, 51 North 5th Street.

Under the executive editor A. M. Rosenthal, the New York Times newsroom of the 1970s and 80s was a homophobic place. Journalists known to be gay or lesbian were stalled and even demoted in their careers. But in December of 1990, when Times reporter and closeted gay journalist Jeff Schmalz collapsed in the newsroom, all that began to change.

Dying Words, The AIDS Reporting of Jeff Schmalz and How It Transformed The New York Times will be the subject of a presentation by authors, Samuel G. Freedman with Kerry Donahue to be held in the NEW Hudson Area Library Community Room on Saturday, April 30 at 4pm. The event is free.
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