Milton Coleman, senior editor of the Washington Post, has been selected as the first University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Foundation Alumni Fellow. The new Alumni Fellows program recognizes eminent alumni who have achieved leadership and accomplishment in their fields.
Coleman, who received his bachelor of fine arts degree in music history and literature from UWM, will receive the award at a campus reception starting at 3:30 p.m. in the Union Art Gallery, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., on Tuesday, Feb. 21. While at the university, he will participate in classes in journalism and music on Feb. 21 and 22. He will also take part in a panel discussion with the media on black unemployment and education at the Milwaukee Press Club, 137 E. Wells St., at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.
Coleman started his journalism career as a reporter for the Milwaukee Courier, an African American weekly. Before joining the Washington Post in 1976, he worked as a reporter and editor for the African World newspaper in North Carolina; the All African News Service; WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C.; Community News Service of New York; and the Minneapolis Star.
At the Post, he rose from a reporter on the Metropolitan staff to senior editor. He most recently has overseen and helped to develop the newspaper’s ethics and standards guidelines and its corrections policy. Coleman, who has learned Spanish, also provides newsroom guidance to El Tiempo Latino, a Spanish-language weekly owned by the Post.
Among many awards and honors, Coleman has served as a jury chairman for the Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism and as a judge for a number of other top journalism awards.
He is president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and immediate past president of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE). Through his work with those organizations, he has taken part in fact-finding missions and given presentations on press freedom and media ethics in many Caribbean and Latin American countries.
In addition to his numerous professional activities and awards, he has served his church and the Boy Scouts of America for many years. He has been active in the D.C. area in raising and awarding scholarship money through the Post and through his church, which was founded more than 120 years ago by the children and grandchildren of slaves who, he says, knew education was a path to and an essential asset in freedom.
“We see education as a liberator and an equalizer,” Coleman said. “I believe my alma mater can really make a difference in this city, this state and in this world, in the same way that scholarships – that ticket to ride – made a difference for me,” he said.
In a 2003 speech to the UW System Board of Regents, Coleman said he owed a great deal to his time at UWM and to his editors at the Milwaukee Courier.
“I could not have had a more intellectually stimulating educational, civic and social experience than the one I received at UWM,” Coleman said recently. “I left campus well equipped to compete with the best and was ultimately blessed with opportunities to be a leader among them.”
Coleman, who grew up in the Hillside Terrace public housing project in Milwaukee, graduated from Fourth Street Elementary School and Lincoln Junior and Senior High Schools. The first in his family to go to college. he said that winning a scholarship to attend UW-Milwaukee was a key turning point that provided a “step up in life.”
He added that his college experience – and that of others – has proved that the University of Wisconsin System is “a place where anybody can be somebody, proof that ordinary people, as they say, can be prepared to do extraordinary things.”