JOSEPH NICHOLSON, the first openly Gay reporter at a big-city daily, and who covered high-profile court cases, international affairs, and gay and AIDS issues was born on this date (d: 2014). Nicholson, who worked for the New York Post from 1971 to 1993 (the Dorothy Schiff era), began coming out to colleagues in the late 1970s and by 1980 was out to all his major editors, noted a 1990 American Society of Newspaper Editors report on gay people in journalism. He recognized the importance of coming out because of the increasingly anti-Gay editorial stance at the Post after its purchase by Rupert Murdoch in 1976.
In 1980, after a gunman fired shots into a New York Gay bar, killing two people and wounding several others, Nicholson offered his Post editors a story about his “reaction as a Gay person,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review The Post did not publish the piece, but the New York Native, a now-defunct Gay weekly, ran an expanded version of it, according to Nicholson’s family. Another version later ran in CJR.
He covered the trials of Jean Harris for the murder of “Scarsdale Diet” Dr. Herman Tarnower; of Claus von Bulow for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny; of William Kennedy Smith for rape; and a civil proceeding involving Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. He also interviewed world leaders such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Israel’s Ariel Sharon, and for several years was medicine and science editor. He covered gay issues as well. “In 1993, during the height of debate on gays in the military, he wrote a first-person account on his experiences as closeted Navy officer when he served in the mid-1960s.”
Long before that, in 1971, one of the first stories he proposed and wrote for the Post was on anti-Gay job discrimination and efforts to get the City Council to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance — which it finally did in 1986. His reporting on Gay and AIDS issues brought the Post a GLAAD award in 1992. The advocacy organization had been founded partly in response to the paper’s earlier derogatory coverage of Gay people and their concerns. Nicholson also worked for the Associated Press, the New York Daily News, and Editor & Publisher,and freelanced for numerous publications.
He wrote two books, Inside Cuba and A Woman Obsessed: The Murder Trial of Jean Harris. Nicholson died of cancer in October 2014. He is survived by his husband, Sherwin T. Nicholson