Leroy Aarons, former executive editor of the Oakland Tribune and the founder of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, died Sunday night in Sebastopol, Calif. Aarons was 70 and is survived by his partner of 24 years, Joshua Boneh. The cause of death was heart failure, according to officials at NLGJA, although Aarons had been battling cancer.
A lifelong journalist, Aarons served as a national correspondent and editor at The Washington Post. He was also executive editor and senior vice president for news at the Oakland Tribune. During his tenure at that newspaper, it won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for its photojournalism during the devastating 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area.
The NLGJA, founded by Aarons 14 years ago, has attained membership of more than 1,200 print, broadcast, and magazine journalists, with chapters in 24 regions of the United States and affiliates in Canada and Germany. NLGJA has had a significant impact on how the mainstream media cover lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues and fair workplace treatment of LGBT employees.
"Roy was a dashing reporter on the West Coast for the Washington Post and as agreeable a companion as you could possibly have, as well versed as he was in everything from politics to culture to the California scene," said NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, who was a friend of Aaron's for more than 40 years. "His commitment to gay issues helped raise the consciousness of the entire country."
In 1999, Aarons became a visiting faculty member of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and director of the Program for Study of Sexual Orientation Issues in the News. This program was the first in the nation to develop curricula on teaching the coverage of the LGBT community.
"Roy was not only a great leader and great spokesman for gays and lesbians in the journalism game, but he was also a good man and a good friend," said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher of The New York Times. "I learned an enormous amount from him about his values, and a lot of that is reflected in the values of The New York Times. There's no question that Roy was an important force in journalism."