Thursday, June 5, 2008
Colleen "Koky" Dishon
Colleen "Koky" Dishon was a groundbreaking journalist. She started her career covering hard news for the Associated Press during World War II. After the war, she was a progressive women's page editor in Columbus, Ohio, and Milwaukee before moving on to Chicago. She was hired by the Chicago Tribune in 1975 and in 1982, Dishon was named associate editor, becaming the first woman listed in the Chicago Tribune's masthead.
At the Tribune, Dishon created 17 special sections that were often quickly copied at newspapers across the country. In the words of Tribune Managing Editor Ann Marie Lipinski: “Whether you have ever worked for Koky, or ever heard her name before today, if you are a newspaper reader, you are the beneficiary of her genius. She defined modern features coverage with her work in Chicago, creating the so-called ‘sectional revolution’ in American newspapers.”
According to former Chicago Tribune newspaper executive Jim Squires, “For someone just 5 feet tall, Koky Dishon was as close as you can come to being a giant in journalism. At one point, she could have been the most influential woman in journalism.” In 2001, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from International Women’s Media Foundation.
For those wondering, it was her older sister who, in an attempt to pronounce “Colleen,” introduced the nickname “Koky,” which would last her lifetime.
I presented a paper on Koky at the fall 2007 American Journalism Historians Association convention. An article about Koky is under peer review at a state history magazine.