Groundbreaking Lesbian Columnist Deb Price Dies at 62

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday December 3, 2020

Deb Price
Deb Price  (Source:Screencap/C-Span)

Deb Price, the openly lesbian columnist who began sharing her views as an LGBTQ person in a nationally syndicated column in 1992, died on Nov. 20, reports The Detroit News, the same newspaper she wrote for when she began the column.

"Price's column was the first of its kind in mainstream journalism," the newspaper noted.

Joyce Murdoch, Price's wife, said that Price died Nov. 20 "after a hospitalization in Hong Kong, where she had been based, followed nine years coping with an autoimmune lung disease," The Detroit News added.

Price had written for The South China Morning Post since 2018. Her bio at that publication recalled that Price was had been "an editor at The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post," and that she "was a Harvard Nieman fellow in 2011.

"She was the lead writer on The Wall Street Journal's digital project, 'No Good Choices,' which won the top award for excellence in reporting on women's issues from the Society of Publishers in Asia in 2015," the bio added.

The publisher and editor at the Detroit Free Press to whom Price first brought the idea of a column written from an openly LGBTQ perspective, Bob Giles, recalled thinking that it was "a great idea," the Free Press noted.

"I said, 'Why don't you show us some sample columns?' " Giles told the paper. "She gave us a stack that were really well done and they seemed to fit into the idea that it was a changing world, and Deb had a capacity for expressing that."

Giles cited Price's humor as a crucial element in her column, and said, "She was a pioneer in what she did in her column, and I'm proud our newspaper was able to be the platform for her to tell what it was like to be a lesbian in an educational way."

Price's column went on to appear in newspapers nationally. Even before the Internet age's trolls there were plenty of people willing to hurl abuse at those who came out publicly, and Price found herself the target of some of those hateful comments.

But, the Detroit Free Press recalled the columnist pointing out to the Associated Press that "if there weren't hostility and if there weren't misunderstandings about gay people, there would be no point in doing this column."

Murdoch was, in some ways, an equal partner in the project, having been "introduced" to Price's readers in the first column. She co-wrote a book about the column with Price, the Detroit Free Press recalled. Posting at Facebook about Price's death, Murdoch said that her wife's "18 years as a groundbreaking gay columnist changed lives, healed families and helped our nation progress toward being a more perfect union."

The founder of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, Joshua Benton, shared his thoughts on Price's contribution at Twitter, posting that "Most Americans in 1992 said they didn't know a single gay person. Then suddenly there was Deb, on the breakfast table next to the sports section."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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