Richard G. Jones will become The Inquirer’s managing editor for Opinion, returning to the company where his varied and accomplished career in journalism and academia began more than 30 years ago.
In announcing the appointment Tuesday, Inquirer editor Gabriel Escobar said that Jones, selected after a national search, would assume his duties July 26.
“Richard has a deep and personal connection to Philadelphia,” Escobar said. “These attributes, along with his other accomplishments in the field of journalism, make him exceptionally qualified to lead our Opinion team.”
“The Inquirer is a place I always kept an eye on,” said Jones, who spent most of his childhood living at the Johnson Homes project at 25th Street and Ridge Avenue and whose mother still lives in Swampoodle.
He said that he viewed “a big part of my job as being a facilitator of a community-wide conversation” and that he would work to ensure “the broadest array of perspectives that we can muster.”
Jones most recently was chief academic and administrative officer of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy at the University of Notre Dame.
“I’ve always admired and missed working with the journalists in our newsroom, and during last summer’s reckoning around issues of race, I began having some pangs about possibly returning to newspapers,” Jones said.
He spent a decade at the New York Times as a reporter, editor, and director of a professional development program for college-student members of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
He is a two-time winner of the New York Times Publisher’s Award.
Jones, who has family and in-laws in South Jersey and the Pennsylvania suburbs, is coming home to the organization that hired him as an intern in 1990.
Impressing Inquirer editors with his skilled reporting and ability to write with flair, clarity, and fluidity, he went on to become a staff reporter, columnist, education reporter, and national correspondent based in Atlanta.
He was involved in coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, the mass shootings at Columbine, and reported from war-torn Bosnia.
Jones is an alumnus of the University of Delaware, where he later taught, and also has held faculty positions at Rutgers and American Universities and the University of Maryland. He holds a master’s in journalism from Columbia University.
As Opinion editor, Jones will be in charge of the Editorial Board, a team of opinion journalists separate from the newsroom that meet to debate and develop opinions on matters of public interest. The Opinion desk also edits Letters to the Editor and reviews and solicits opinion stories from a wide array of people across the region.
Jones said that rather than a laundry list, he has some “general, overarching thoughts” about “how we can all continue to lift our coverage. ... It feels like we want to do more with video, audio, and podcasts; we want to do more to be not just digital-first, but mobile-first.
“I think there’s great potential for our team to expand its investigative presence and do more data-driven work,” he added.
Jones said his new assignment is all the more meaningful given that two legendary Black columnists, the Daily News’ Chuck Stone and The Inquirer’s Acel Moore, were instrumental in launching his career. Stone was a mentor at Delaware, and Jones was hired as an intern after interviewing with Moore.
Said Jones, “It’s unreal to think that I’ll be leading Opinion coverage in the now-combined newsroom where those great columnists practiced their craft.”