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Leroy Aarons Papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: Coll2011-014

Scope and Content

The Leroy Aarons papers are made up of materials concerning Aarons work on the Study of Sexual Orientation in the News (SOIN) Project, his work as a journalist, his work as a playwright and author, and his time as an educator at the University of Southern California (USC).

The collection holds drafts, research, notes, articles and clippings, programs, audiovisual recordings, and ephemera related to many of his books and plays, with particular focus on his book "Prayers for Bobby" and his play/radio show "Top Secret: the Battle for the Pentagon Papers."

There are documents and records surrounding Aarons work as a journalist, including an comprehensive collection of articles written by Aarons for the Washington Post; articles written for other publications; programs, correspondence, newsletters, and other documents related to Aarons' founding of and work with the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NGJLA); and grant documents, financial records, correspondence and e-mail, notes, published reports, organizational membership lists, publicity documents, survey and content audit forms, clipped and copied articles, lecture drafts, course syllabi, journalism teaching resources, subject files, 3.5 inch floppy disks, and other material, 1890 to 2003, documenting journalist Leroy Aarons' tenure as director of the University of Southern California Annenberg Journalism School's Project for the Study of Sexual Orientation in the News (SOIN), from 1999-2003.

The collection also includes photographs and documents of Aarons' childhood and family and photographs of Aarons and his life partner, as well as letters, photographs, articles, and ephemera from Aarons memorial.


  • 1890-2006



The collection is open to researchers. There are no access restrictions.

Publication Rights

Researchers wishing to publish material must obtain permission in writing from ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives as the physical owner of the material. Note that permission to publish does not constitute copyright clearance. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials from the copyright holder(s).

Biographical Note

Leroy Aarons was born in a working class neighborhood of New York, New York in 1933. He graduated from Brown University, then later earned a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. Aarons spent 14 years as an editor and journalist with the Washington Post before leaving in 1976 to work with friend and colleague Robert C. Maynard at the Summer Institute for Minority Journalists in Berkeley, California. In 1983 Maynard purchased theOakland Tribune and invited Aarons to join the staff. TheTribune won a Pulitzer Prize and was recognized as a model of diversity in journalism during Aaron's tenure as executive editor and vice president for news.

In 1989 the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) asked Aarons, known for his commitment to diversity in journalism, to coordinate a confidential survey of gay journalists. The survey was intended to document respondents' perceptions of coverage of gay and lesbian issues in their newspapers, as well as working conditions in their newsrooms. When Aarons reported the survey findings to an audience of peers at the ASNE convention in 1990, he also revealed that he was gay, making him the "first openly gay top-level editor at any mainstream daily newspaper in the country" (obituary of Aarons by Jon Thurber; Los Angeles Times, Nov. 30, 2004). Later in the same year Aarons and several colleagues founded the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).

After leaving the Tribune in 1990, Aarons undertook a number of writing projects, including researching and writing his acclaimed bookPrayers for Bobby. He also co-authored a docu-drama about the release of the Pentagon Papers (1991) with prominent journalist and academic Geoffrey Cowan, later dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism. In 1998, Aarons collaborated with Cowan on a grant from philanthropist Michael Huffington that resulted in the creation of the Program for the Study of Sexual Orientation in the News (SOIN) at the USC Annenberg School. Appointed director in 1999, Aarons facilitated a grant proposal to the Ford Foundation that secured funding for three projects: the development of an undergraduate journalism class intended to "prepare future professionals to bring context and balance to coverage of gay and lesbian issues"; a reprise of the earlier ASNE survey of gay and lesbian journalists, this time under the auspices of the Annenberg School and the NLGJA; and a content audit of coverage of lesbian and gay issues in six nationally or regionally significant newspapers.

Leroy Aarons remained a part of the SOIN program until his death in 2004.


Leroy Aarons Papers, Coll2011-014, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California. (Box 1, folder 8)


6 Linear Feet (2 archive boxes, 3 archive cartons, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Leroy Aarons was a journalist, author, playwright, and educator. He was known for his founding of the National Lesbian and Gay Jounalists Association (NLGJA), his work at the Washington Post and Oakland Tribune newspapers, his book "Prayers for Bobby", and his teaching career at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. The collection contains documents and records documenting Aarons' tenure as director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism's Project for the Study of Sexual Orientation in the News (SOIN) from 1999 to 2003. The collection documents Aarons' central role in developing and implementing the USC/Annenberg School's SOIN project and its three constituent parts: a model journalism course intended to help students "to understand the complex issues around gay men and lesbians as represented in today's media"; a survey of the perceptions of gay and lesbian journalists regarding their news organization's coverage of sexual orientation issues; and a content audit of coverage of gay and lesbian issues in a sample of national newspapers.

Acquisition Information

Donated on June 8, 2010 by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Separated Materials

USC/Annenberg materials of a general nature, without relevance to SOIN, have been deaccessioned from the Leroy Aarons papers. Items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, periodicals with no clear relevance to SOIN or gay and lesbian issues, have also been deaccessioned. Items 2 and 9 may be found in the ONE Archive's periodicals collection.

1. Pamphlet reprint of Los Angeles Times magazine profile of USC President Sample, (9/17/00)

2. Lambda Report, vol. II/3, 7/1994

3. The American Lawyer, July, 2001

4. Media Education Foundation, fall 2003 catalog

5. Westways magazine, August 1999

6. Teen People magazine, October 1999

7. Columbia Journalism Review, December 2001

8. Time/Princeton Review - College Guide 2000,Nov. 1999

9. The Advocate - October 23, 2001

Restricted student work has been pulled from the collection and filed with the collection's accession records.

Processing Information

Processing this collection has been funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Collection processed by Marc LaRocque, July 2011.

Finding aid of the Leroy Aarons papers, 1890-2003, bulk 1999-2003
In Progress
Marc LaRocque, Beth McDonald
(c) 2011, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, University of Southern California Repository

909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles California 90007 United States
(213) 821-2771