Randy Shilts (August 8, 1951 – February 17, 1994) was a pioneering gay American journalist and author. He worked as a freelance reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as for San Francisco Bay Area television stations.
Born August 8, 1951 in Davenport, Iowa, Shilts grew up in Aurora, Illinois, with five brothers in a politically conservative, working-class family. He majored in journalism at the University of Oregon, where he worked on the student newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald, becoming an award-winning managing editor. During his college days, he came out publicly as a gay man at age 20, and ran for student office with the slogan "Come out for Shilts."
Shilts graduated near the top of his class in 1975, but as an openly gay man, he struggled to find full-time employment in what he characterized as the homophobic environment of newspapers and television stations at that time. After several years of freelance journalism, he was finally hired as a national correspondent by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981, becoming "the first openly gay reporter with a gay 'beat' in the American mainstream press." Coincidentally, AIDS, the disease that would take his life, first came to nationwide attention that same year, and soon Shilts devoted himself to covering the unfolding story of the disease and its medical, social, and political ramifications.