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Thu Apr 4, 2024, 11:34 AM Apr 2024

Journalist was trailblazer, mentor, paper's racial conscience

Journalist was trailblazer, mentor, paper’s racial conscience

Marvin Lake, the Virginian-Pilot’s first Black reporter, died last week at his Norfolk home.

Roger Chesley
APRIL 4, 2024 5:43 AM

Marvin Lake enjoyed mentoring young journalists, especially African Americans, during his 41-year career at The Virginian-Pilot. (Roger Chesley/Virginia Mercury)

Marvin L. Lake – journalist, Renaissance man, holder of many professional “firsts” – was made of decidedly sterner stuff. ... Otherwise, he couldn’t have withstood the racial slights and outright prejudice he fought after becoming The Virginian-Pilot’s first Black summer intern in 1966 and later, in 1969, its first Black reporter.

He understood the long game, though: Rise through the newspaper ranks. Become a mentor to legions of young journalists – especially African Americans and others of color. Be a conduit between the paper and Hampton Roads’ Black community, which distrusted The Pilot for its biased depictions of Black people.

They were tasks the Norfolk native relished in a career that eventually spanned 41 years at the newspaper. ... He and I worked together on The Pilot editorial page from my arrival in 2000 until his retirement in 2007. I edited his public editor columns during that period – with him often saying “I’m writing it in my head” as he busted deadlines.

Lake, 80, died last week at his Norfolk home after a long illness. ... His professional “offspring,” some from as far away as California and Florida, returned to Norfolk on Tuesday. His funeral took place at a church across from Norfolk State University, where Lake had earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology in 1967. ... The roughly 200 mourners this week included a top magazine editor, a college educator and other media professionals. U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Norfolk Democrat, was among the politicians who attended.

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