Former USC professor and L.A. Times editor Henry Fuhrmann died at age 65 from a sudden illness on Wednesday, his family announced, first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Fuhrmann began his journalism career in 1989 when he joined the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to further connect his passion for journalism with his identity. Fuhrmann quickly rose up the ranks, where he served on the AAJA Board of Directors and Advisory Board before accepting a role as co-president. Beyond co-president, Fuhrmann earned himself the title of “AAJA Elder” for his many professional accomplishments over his long career.
This was just the beginning of an extremely illustrious career for Fuhrmann. Shortly after joining AAJA, Fuhrmann joined the L.A. Times through the Times’ Minority Editorial Program, now called the Times’ Fellowship Program. After success in the program, Fuhrmann was offered his first editorial role as a copy editor for the Time’s Calendar section in 1991, where he would begin his memorable 25-year career as an editor for the L.A. Times.
One of Fuhrmann’s most notable projects emerged in 2018 when he pushed for dropping the hyphenation in words like “Asian-American” and “African-American.”
“Those hyphens serve to divide even as they are meant to connect. Their use in racial and ethnic identities can connote as otherness, a sense that people of color are somehow not full citizens or fully American,” Fuhrmann said in a 2018 essay.
As a result, the hyphen was successfully removed and is now part of the AP Stylebook.
Looking past Fuhrmann’s concrete success, Fuhrmann’s lasting impact on the journalism field comes from his influence as a mentor and leader in the newsroom. Following his 25-year career at the L.A. Times, Fuhrmann decided to bring his passion for journalism to the classroom. He joined USC Annenberg as an adjunct instructor and writing coach in the Media Center in 2016. Known for his kindness and expertise, Fuhrmann indisputably left a mark on USC Annenberg and the Media Center, both on its students and teachers alike.
“He was just truly the kindest person and exactly what you would wish every newsroom leader was like,” USC adjunct professor Saba Hamedy said.
Broadcast professor May Lee worked with Henry Fuhrmann as a co-professor for the summer graduate program at Annenberg in 2018. In her first year, Lee said she was fortunate enough to learn valuable teaching and technical skills first-hand from Fuhrmann.
“I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better partner in teaching because he was such a wonderful educator with such patience and kindness,” Lee said.
Similarly, Fuhrmann’s impact resonated greatly with the students he taught and worked with. Marissa Ding, a sophomore studying health promotion and disease prevention, met and spoke with Fuhrmann before his death through her involvement with AAJA.
“He paved the way for those who are interested in journalism,” Ding said. “Henry’s work, especially for journalists, is encouraging for us to keep going, to keep telling our stories and to keep being proud of who we are.”
Fuhrmann’s death will have a lasting impact on those in AAJA, the AAPI community and the journalism world as a whole.
“So many of us at AAJA will remember him most as a dear friend and generous mentor, who always made time for his AAJA family with warmth, humility, and humor,” AAJA said in their memoriam for Fuhrmann.
A sudden death like Fuhrmann’s serves as a friendly reminder that life is too short, some of his colleagues say.
“We only get one chance in life,” Lee said. “We have to really live it, fully. Enjoy it, do something that is meaningful and fulfilling because we shouldn’t take it for granted. Henry certainly didn’t.”