Remembering ‘AIDS in the Heartland’ editor Deborah Howell


Deborah Howell had worked at both of the Twin Cities large newspapers, and during her tenure as editor of the Pioneer Press, the St. Paul newspaper won a Pulitzer prize for its series “AIDS in the Heartland,” a feature about rural gay couple living with HIV. 

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association looked back on Howell’s work on LGBT issues as an editor at the Pioneer Press and as ombudsman for the Washington Post saying she was “Long an advocate for greater diversity in the newsroom — especially for women — and supporter of NLGJA while at Newhouse.”

Howell passed away in New Zealand last week after a car accident.

Minnesota native, and New York Times blogger David Carr had this to say about Howel:

As the editor of The Pioneer Press in the ’80s, a time when AIDS was seen as some exotic affliction visited on club kids in San Francisco and New York, she assigned and edited a series by Jacqui Banaszynski called “AIDS in the Heartland.” The stories made it clear that the virus was on the march and might well be found in the milk farmer down the road. The series won a Pulitzer in 1988, but more important, it put her readers on notice that the distance between “us” and “them” was a lot shorter than people liked to think.