Former Inquirer editor William K. Marimow has been an ardent supporter of the Acel Moore program since its inception in 1984.
By William K. Marimow
Acel Moore, who created these high school journalism workshops, was a man of the city who over the course of his 43 year-career as an Inquirer reporter and editor, became one of Philadelphia’s most skillful, influential and important journalists.
Not only was Acel an exceptional journalist, he was also a trailblazing teacher and mentor to a generation of outstanding minority journalists – many of them here at The Inquirer and others who have worked in newsrooms and classrooms across the nation.
One of Acel’s enduring legacies is our high school journalism workshop, which bears his name. Knowing the importance of recruiting, training and retaining minority journalists, he founded the program in 1984 when he was an associate editor of the newspaper, writing columns and editorials about life in Philadelphia. Those workshops, led by Inquirer staffers from their inception, have taught students like you the fundamentals of reporting, writing, editing, photography, design and the increasingly critical skills required to produce news online. Most importantly, they have provided the spark to ignite hundreds of successful careers – in both journalism and other fields.
Acel grew up in South Philadelphia and in 9th grade enrolled at Overbrook High, the alma mater of his hero, basketball great Wilt Chamberlain. At The Inquirer, his first job was as a news clerk where his knowledge of the city and his street-wise acumen earned him a promotion to the reporting staff. In covering the police, Acel gained in-depth knowledge of virtually every neighborhood in the city – from the Navy Yard to the far Northeast and from Cobbs Creek to Society Hill, which made him an indispensable source of information for new Inquirer staffers. In 1976, Acel and a partner embarked on an investigative project about how residents at the Farview State Hospital were being assaulted by staffers assigned to protect them. Those stories received the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1977.
In The Inquirer newsroom, Acel was always an enthusiastic and tireless recruiter of promising minority journalists, constantly reminding senior editors that there was a wide gulf between the percentage of minority staffers in the newsroom and the diversity of the Philadelphia area. Once Acel had recruited a young journalist, he followed their work closely. Sandy Clark, vice president of news and civic dialogue at WHYY, recalled that Acel recruited her from the University of Kansas to join The Inquirer copy desk. As Clark recalled that by hiring her, “he landed the ultimate diversity hire – African-American, Japanese and female. And he let me know that I wasn’t there to be a number.” To the contrary, Acel was a lifelong mentor to Sandy, who eventually became one of The Inquirer’s managing editors.
Throughout his career, Acel’s stories often focused on the achievements of African American Philadelphians – young and old, both the well-known news personages and the men and women whose good deeds were trumpeted in their communities but rarely known outside their blocks of rowhouses and the city streets. As The Inquirer’s fourth African American reporter, Acel understood based on his own experience the importance of recruiting and training young minority journalists for work at The Inquirer and around the nation. He knew that in order to succeed as a business The Inquirer had to cover all of Philadelphia’s diverse communities, and that The Inquirer’s newsroom staffing had to reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the city and its suburbs.
In 1975, Acel was one of 44 journalists who founded the National Association of Black Journalists, which has grown and flourished to guarantee that newsrooms throughout the nation recognize the importance of diversity in their staffing and their selection of stories and news sources.
These workshops are the product of Acel’s commitment to diversity in the newsroom: He strongly believed that by providing high school students from the Philadelphia area with insights into the world of journalism and in-depth training during these weekend sessions, it would instill an interest in our profession and inspire some to follow in his footsteps. The fact that all the teachers on the weekends are Inquirer staffers is powerful evidence that Acel’s legacy is being carried forward by the new generation of The Inquirer staff and, hopefully, to many of the participants who have enrolled in the Acel Moore High School Journalism Workshop.