AAJA Mourns the Passing of Dorothy Ing Russell, Journalism Trailblazer and AAJA Pioneer

Dorothy Ing Russell in 2010

AAJA is saddened by the news of the death of Dorothy Ing Russell, as reported by Richard Prince in Journal-isms.

Russell died Friday, Oct. 19, in a Maryland hospice after a short illness.

Many in AAJA admired Russell for her work as an international correspondent and more than two decades at The Washington Post, working as a desk editor on some of the biggest stories of the time, and how she gave so much of herself to AAJA. Her courageous voice in a 1990 Post opinion piece noted the far-reaching implications of the racism and sexism spewed by Jimmy Breslin.

AAJA honored Russell’s many accomplishments and contributions with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

She was noted for her rise from a 1951 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, to acting Indonesia bureau chief for United Press International in 1956, to becoming only the second woman stringer for The New York Times at the time. She was a reporter for the American Weekly in London, a writer and editor for The Japan Times, Asahi Evening News and Stars and Stripes in Tokyo and as a writer-researcher for World magazine in New York City.

With her hire in 1968 at The Washington Post, she became its first Asian American editor and writer and its second woman editor in the city room. While on the national copy desk, she edited stories on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and the riots in Washington, D.C. In the early 1970s, she was the only woman editor on the Post’s Metro copy desk and helped edit the Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the Watergate break-in and cover-up written by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Russell leaves a lasting legacy with AAJA.

She established the AAJA Mary Moy Quan Ing Memorial Scholarship in honor of her mother, which has provided tens of thousands of dollars in financial assistance to college students through the years.

She cofounded AAJA-Washington, D.C., and had served as the chapter’s treasurer.

She was recognized as an AAJA Pioneer in 2010 during the association’s national convention in Los Angeles, front and center in a photograph of those honored for making a mark on U.S. journalism and the organization.

Her passing will be marked with a private gathering.

AAJA extends its condolences to her family and friends.

Evelyn Hsu, past AAJA-Washington, D.C. president, remembers one night when Russell stayed for hours with other volunteers as they faced down piles and piles of scholarship material until every envelope was hand stuffed and ready for mailing.

“She volunteered for countless AAJA activities over the years,” said Hsu, senior director of programs and operations for The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and a past AAJA national president. “She was so generous and dedicated to AAJA. We all looked up to her because she was a pioneer. We looked to her for advice. You wanted to hear what she had to say.”

Eva Lee Ngai, AAJA-Washington, D.C. president in 1989, knew Russell as a role model professionally and personally, and as a friend. Ngai describes Russell as kind, gracious, a lover of skiing and culture who was a docent at one of the two Asian art museums – the Freer Gallery of Art – of the Smithsonian Institution. “She seemed ageless,” Ngai said. “Dorothy Russell touched my heart for 26 years and I am a better person for it.”