Out of the South into Syndication

Article excerpt

Several well-known writers were born or lived for a time in Monroeville, Ala., including Truman Capote, novelist Mark Childress, and Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame.

"That's an extraordinary number of literary figures for a city with a population of 6,993," observed Chronicle Features editor/general manager Stuart Dodds.

Now, with the help of syndication via Chronicle, another Monroeville-born writer is gaining national recognition -- Cynthia Tucker.

The Atlanta Constitution editorial page editor does a column that has been picked up by about 25 papers, including some of America's biggest, since entering syndication this spring. Dodds called this a "very successful" debut for a text feature during the current recession.

Tucker's Alabama and Georgia background is one reason why "As I See It" has found a niche on opinion pages, where the great majority of other columns are by writers from outside the South.

"I'm a Southerner born and bred, and I want that point of view to come across," she said.

The 37-year-old Tucker added that she believes it's to her advantage as a columnist not to be based "inside the Beltway."

Tucker stated, "No matter how good a columnist you are or how sophisticated a political thinker, you're too isolated from what average Americans are doing, saying, and thinking when you're in Washington, D.C. You can misjudge the impact of things on the rest of the country."

The columnist does offer her share of political commentary in "As I See It," and has found 1992 to be a very interesting year. "It's not just a political year, but an exciting, unusual political year in a lot of ways," she said.

Even the latter part of the summer has been interesting for Tucker. "Usually August is deadly dull for newspaper writers," she noted. "You're struggling. Thank heavens for the Republican National Convention!"

Yet Tucker thinks it can be "boring" for readers if a column focuses too much on politics and public policy matters. Tucker uses "As I See It" to also discuss a variety of other topics, including international affairs, social issues, people's everyday concerns, her own life, and subjects of particular relevance to blacks and women.

She did observe, "One of my biggest concerns as a black woman editorialist is not to be pigeonholed. I don't want to be a 'black columnist'-- that's too limiting. I don't want to be a 'woman columnist' -- that's too limiting. I have a wide variety of interests and I write on a number of topics. But because I am a black and I am a woman, so-called 'black issues' and so-called 'women's issues' do interest me."

For instance, in a (pre-Chronicle) column on last fall's Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, Tucker wrote that "the shameless and baseless attacks on Ms. Hill and her livelihood ought to make it absolutely clear why she would not have come forward 10 years ago to bring a charge of sexual harassment against her superior."

In a more recent syndicated piece, Tucker commented on how stereotypes put forth by the media and politicians obscure the fact that many African-American families are still intact. "There is no denying that the black family is troubled, as is the American family in general," she stated, while adding that many extended families -- including her own -- are "full of not only strong and determined black mothers but also black fathers who have loved and protected their children .... "

As for her ideological orientation, Tucker said, "I am certainly a liberal, and I don't run away from the word." However, she sees herself as a "thinking" rather than "knee-jerk" liberal whose columns don't always take predictable positions.

For example, Tucker wrote in one column that racism shouldn't be blamed for all the troubles of African-Americans. "It is highly irresponsible to pretend that a young mother who constantly responds to her toddler with cross words and harsh licks is not causing her child more harm than the policies of racist police chiefs are ever likely to cause . …