Miriam-Webster defines the noun
whisperer as: “1: one that whispers. 2: a person who excels at calming or training hard-to-manage animals using non-coercive methods based especially on an understanding of the animals’ natural instincts.”
In the world of print journalism those of us that ply our craft on a regular basis must generally possess primal-like tendencies not only to survive but merely just to remain competitive. Oftentimes the person charged with regulating and tempering those tendencies is the managing editor. He or she must more often than not be part animal trainer, part circus owner and part veterinarian.
Ulish Carter, longtime managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier is such a person. Mr. Carter, who has spent more than 30 years with the newspaper is retiring. Ulish Carter was born in Huntington, TN but he spent his adolescent years in Champagne, IL. He migrated to Pittsburgh in 1973 after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a double major in journalism and radio/television and a minor in Black history.
“It was always my dream to work for a Black newspaper,” he proudly recalled. “My top three choices coming out of college were: The Pittsburgh Courier, Muhammad Speaks, (Chicago) and the Afro American, (Washington D.C.). I got hired by the Courier and I had studied the Courier. In addition to that Bill Nunn Jr. and Wendell Smith were two of my heroes along with Sam Lacy from the Afro American. I was a sportswriter and to me those guys were the greatest sportswriters out there. I didn’t know that his father [Bill Nunn Sr.] was as big as he was but I knew about Bill Nunn Jr.”
While the sports writing career of Ulish Carter was still in its infancy, he witnessed and became part of Black Sports history. In 2008 I was in Atlanta covering the Black College All-Star awards. The morning before the ceremony, I moseyed downstairs to eat brunch and lo and behold, former NFL star Quarterback Doug Williams was seated at the table. Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins became the first African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, scoring four of Washington’s five touchdowns in an upset 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. I had never met Doug but the minute he saw my New Pittsburgh Courier credential it was like we were old friends.
“How is everybody doing at the paper?” He asked in his semi-southern drawl. “Bill Nunn [Jr.] and the Pittsburgh Courier is one of the reasons that we’re here.” I snapped a quick photo so that I could preserve a piece of the fruit from one of the historical trees that sprouted from the seeds that Ulish Carter planted in the Pittsburgh Courier’s, “grove of history.”
In May of 2014, as I was preparing to write an article about Bill Nunn Jr. prior to his memorial services, I asked Mr. Carter how the Black College All-Star awards came to be. “He said: “after I was in Pittsburgh for several months, I had covered the Steelers and the Pirates. Jim Lewis the general manager of the paper and also the guy who hired me, came to me and said; “Ulish, we need you to help Bill Nunn put together the Black College All American team. He said that he was floored. ”You mean Bill Nunn? I get to work with Bill Nunn? That was something because coming from a small town to Pittsburgh was a big deal.
The initial meeting to form the Black College All Star team was held at the home of Jim Lewis. Prior to my arrival, both of them had a few drinks. Mr. Nunn could sense that I was nervous. He said: “Calm down, as long as you do what I tell you to do, it will be alright.”
As far as his writers were concerned, Ulish Carter would always give you the freedom to communicate but if you were not careful, you could be ex-communicated. Ulish would provide the rope serving as a lifeline for you to save a floundering or drowning career. However, that same piece of rope could also serve as a noose tightened around your neck as you stood on the gallows of incompetence after you failed to complete an assignment.
There have been times that I sat and listened to him in a quiet voice, peel back the complex layers of history as he recalled the journey of African Americans as well as African American athletes. Ulish Carter has always upheld and maintained the “Pittsburgh Courier” standard because he is the “Pittsburgh Courier” standard.
When he was asked what impact that he hopes that he has had on writers (including yours truly), that have passed through the halls of the New Pittsburgh Courier he said; “I hope that I have helped writers become journalists’. In the media world today [oftentimes] personalities are profiled more than journalism. I hope that I have helped journalists’ understand that it is more important to tell the story than to be the story. It has been important for me to tell the story and get publicity for others.”
Mr. Ulish Carter has been an extraordinary griot, whispering in a voice, with a tone filled with dignity and grace, while teaching us about one another. My world, our world and the world of journalism is better because of him.
Aubrey Bruce is the Senior Sports Columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412.583.6741
Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe