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40 Highlights from #NABJ18 by Journal-isms

Monday, August 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jovan Riley
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40 Highlights from #NABJ18 by Journal-isms

This article by Richard Prince first published Aug. 6, 2018 and is posted with permission by Journal-isms

·         Before the convention officially began Wednesday night, 15 people participated Tuesday and Wednesday in the Emerging Leaders Institute of the American Society of News Editors. ASNE has determined that in order for its diversity goals to be met — parity of journalists of color with their counterparts in the general population — journalists of color must be in leadership positions.

·         panel moderated by this writer on the aftermath of the Kerner Commission report on the racial uprisings of the 1960s (video of earlier version; Facebook registration required), which listed the nondiverse news media of the day as a contributing factor, drew a largely Baby Boomer audience, rather than younger journalists who do not know this history. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.would address those born later, saying, “Don’t be dismissive of the previous generation. We need each other.”

·         Detroiters were bursting with pride that NABJ had come to the city. That it had been 26 years since the association last convened there was repeated often. ESPN’s Jemele Hill, a native Detroiter and NABJ’s Journalist of the Year, told Saturday night’s Salute to Excellence Awards audience that for years, “Detroit was the national joke” and in the news only in a negative way. Yet, “We’re still here, we’re still strong and we’re still resilient.”

·         The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau estimated that the convention would generate almost $11 million in direct spendingMichael H. Hodges reported July 30 for the Detroit News. Mayor Mike Duggan, in remarks at Wednesday’s opening ceremony, noted that Detroit’s WGPR-TV was the nation’s first African American-owned television station, and cited the city’s rich black journalism tradition, naming practitioners such as Angelo HendersonStephen HendersonRobert McGruder and Sam Logan, as well as the Michigan Chronicle newspaper.

·         In one of the most popular workshops, “Tyler Perry Master Class: Entrepreneurship and Branding,” the film and television producer “focused on monetizing black culture and cultivating ownership, Arielle Brumfield reported for the NABJ Monitor, the convention news organ. “Too many of us have operated as workers and not owners,” CBS News reporter DeMarco Morgan said at the Friday session. The Perry workshop sucked some of the air out of the convention space, overlapping with nine other workshops and the organization’s business meeting, which, as in the past, ran over its scheduled time.

Jamal Payne and his mother, Violet Payne, embrace during tribute to Les Payne. (Credit: Fred Sweets)

·         A well-produced tribute to Les Payne, the NABJ co-founder, fourth NABJ president and retired columnist and news manager at Newsday who died in March, included a never-seen video by longtime member Sheila Brooks from 2009 in which veteran journalist Warren Bell interviewed Payne. In it, Payne praised NABJ’s bylaw, which would be repealed in 2014 by members in a constitutional amendment, that the NABJ president serve only one term. The rule gives more black journalists training in leadership skills and helps remove the psychological sense of inferiority that African Americans can develop in a white-dominated society, Payne said. When the video concluded, current NABJ president Sarah Glover, the first allowed to serve two terms since NABJ’s 1975 founding, said she hoped she made Payne proud.

·         . . . Jamal Payne, Les Payne’s oldest son, announced that Payne’s life’s work, a biography ofMalcolm X, is expected to be published in 2019 under the working title, “The Dead Are Rising.” Attendees left with a 30-page booklet, “Les Payne Remembered,” and a pen that included a plug-in enabling the viewer to see Brooks’ video on one’s own computer. DeWayne Wickham, Payne’s colleague and dean of the School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University, coordinated the tribute. (video)

·         The Visual Task Force’s annual live photo auction raised more than $20,000, according to Fred Sweets, auctioneer for the past 20+ years. “We usually do better, but we have loyal regulars who come every year to support us,” Sweets said by email. “We are irreverent and pushy to make folks empty their pockets. Proceeds go to the NABJ Scholarship fund. Les Payne was one of our favorite regulars rarely missing an auction. Violet and Jamal supported us by purchasing work,” Sweets added, referring to Payne’s wife and son. “Our record is $30,000, selling one item for $6,000 Unsure of what year that was.”

·         In another celebrity attraction, singer Bobby Brown appeared at a promotion of “The Bobby Brown Story, Powered by BET Networks” (video).

·         The topic of a “New Detroit,” job opportunities, inclusiveness and the issue of the city’s use of public funds to rebuild downtown were boiling points for attendees of a two-hour town hall meeting hosted by NABJ’s Detroit chapter on Tuesday, Sierra Porter reported Thursday for the NABJ Monitor.

·         Anchor Mike Woolfolk of WEYI/WSMH AM, serving Flint and Saginaw, Mich., tweeted Friday: “Look who’s at #NABJ picking the brains of our #JSHOP [High School Journalism Workshop] students? Yes, that’s @chancetherapper LEARNING from our high school students and sharing some knowledge back! Informal and off the record. He also met with a few pros! . . .” Anchor Erica Simon of KTRK-TV in Houston added, “I think it’s cool how @chancetherapper is attending #NABJ18 for the workshops just like us. IMO: the great only stay great by constantly sharpening their skills and learning from others.” Last month, Chance bought the local news site Chicagoist.

·         NABJ gave its “Thumbs Down” award to KTVU-TV in Oakland, Calif., which used a Facebook photo of Nia Wilson, a black woman stabbed to death July 22 on a BART platform, on the following day’s noon newscast. The photo showed the 18-year-old victim holding a gun. Friends have said it was a cell phone case shaped like a pistol. NABJ, the Bay Area Black Journalists Association and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education condemned use of the image. NABJ President Sarah Glover told the Poynter Institute, “Journalists should report the facts and not facilitate judgment of the victim or publish or air material that would result in readers and viewers judging the victim, either. If the victim has died, understand that everything published is final and this individual will not be able to correct their record.”

·         The “Best Practices” award went to West Africa Leaks, a project of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that describes itself as exploring “the impact of offshore secrecy in the 15 countries that make up Africa’s westernmost region, where reporters work in English, French and Portuguese and dozens of local languages. . . . its 367 million people are some of the most disadvantaged in the world, and its position as the tax-avoidance center of Africa means those people are being hit harder still. . . .”

·         Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post tweeted on Friday, “@staceyabrams was asked what was her greatest fear going into the general election: ‘I’m not afraid.’” Abrams is the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia and if elected, would be the first black woman governor in the United States. Abrams appeared at the W.E.B. DuBois Plenary, “Dr. King’s Legacy: Civil Rights Then and Now.”

·         . . . Stacey Abrams appeared on the same panel as Benjamin Crump, a civil rights lawyer who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Crump “mentioned how the slayings of those teens and other African-Americans tragically underscored how law enforcement treats minorities,” Mark Hicks reported Friday for the Detroit News, updated Saturday. “But the issue permeates other segments of society, as well, he said — citing unequal treatment in the legal system. “ ‘As bad as it is … it is far worse how they kill our children in courtrooms [every day] in America, in every city, in every state, with these trumped up felony convictions,” Crump said to applause. “ ‘. . .Once you have that felony conviction and you’re a young person of color, it’s almost impossible for you to get a decent living wage job, to put a roof overhead, to put food on the table, to keep lights on.’ . . .”

·         The convention was a financial success, Executive Director Drew Berry said at the Friday business meeting. Sponsorships netted $235,000 more than budgeted projections, and registrations took in an extra $270,000. Finance Chairman Gregory H. Lee Jr., a former NABJ president, said the association was $473,134 in the black.

·         The membership approved a motion from the Washington Post’s Vanessa Williams, a former NABJ president, that would prevent members who work under contract for NABJ from simultaneously holding NABJ membership. Williams said that might create a conflict of interest when certain issues are presented for a vote. Executive Director Drew Berry told Journal-isms later that the rule would affect 10 to 15 people and that he was not concerned.

·         The organization’s most tumultuous event over the last year, the resignation of Executive Director Sharon Toomer, who had written a blistering letter criticizing board members’ conduct, was not mentioned during the business meeting.

·         Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine reporter and co-founder of the Ida B. WellsSociety for Investigative Reporting, tweeted, “Standing room only for the @IBWellsSociety investigative reporting boot camp at #nabj18. Don’t tell me journalists of color can’t and won’t do this work!” At a reception hosted by the Atlantic magazine, the year-old society, whose mission is to increase the ranks, retention and profile of investigative reporters and editors of color, announced new quarters at the Joan Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. Setti Warren, former mayor of Newton, Mass., and an African American, was introduced as executive director of the center. Warren, a recent Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said he was excited about working with co-founders Ron Nixon of the New York Times and Hannah-Jones.

·         Five black female business owners told a panel Wednesday “that winning respect can be so difficult that they sometimes bring along a white colleague to important meetings with investors or others just to make things go easier,” John Gallagher reported for the Detroit Free Press.

·         Sports columnist William Rhoden, formerly with the New York Times, now with the Undefeated, recalled on his induction to the NABJ Hall of Fame Friday that he once wanted sports journalists to secede from NABJ. “I didn’t think the association really respected us,” even giving an award to a white journalist, Rhoden said. Les Payne, former NABJ president and co-founder, addressing the value of sports journalists, told Rhoden, “prove it — turn out some great journalism.”

·         In the spirit of many of the comments, Bob Ray Sanders, retired columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and another Hall of Fame inductee, told the group, “When you get in the door, don’t close it, leave it wide open.”

·         At Friday’s Hall of Fame luncheon, sponsored by Al Jazeera, Jeff Ballou, a news editor with Al Jazeera English, called attention to Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who has been held in Egypt without formal charges since December 2016 (video). He asked attendees to sign a #DemandPressFreedom petition that declares, among other principles, that “the right to Freedom of Expression is a universal human right. . . .”

·         The NABJ’s Percy Qoboza Award, given to an international journalist, went to Nigerian-American multimedia journalist Chika Oduah, who has “bravely reported on the terrorist group Boko Haram” as well as women’s health across Africa. Attention to the black diaspora was evidenced by the selection of reggae music as background for some of the meal events and participation by the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, Oduah, who was raised and attended school in metro Atlanta, noted the ignorance about Africa by many African Americans. “I try to demystify Africa,” she told the group. While growing up in the United States, she said she had been asked, “Do you speak African?” “Do you sleep in huts?” and “Do you have a pet elephant?”

·         Jemele Hill of ESPN talked only indirectly about the controversies involving her tweets about President Trump’s belief in white supremacy as she accepted NABJ’s “Journalist of the Year” award Saturday, preferring to thank those who helped her as her career advanced. But at an earlier session, she was presented with a painting depicting her in front of the American flag. The artist is Eric Millikin. He and Hill worked together at the State News, their college paper at Michigan State.

·         April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, last year’s Journalist of the Year and a White House correspondent who has clashed with President Trump’s press secretaries, contributed a videotaped introduction to Hill’s award. “Be strong my sister, because they are going to come after you like they came after me,” Ryan said.

·         In NABJ elections, no candidates came forward to represent regions II (the Midwest), and IV (the West). In contested races, Khorri Atkinson, reporter at Axios in Washington, D.C., was elected parliamentarian, defeating Ernest Owens, LGBTQ editor and columnist for Philadelphia Magazine, 265 to 121. However, a tie for media-related representative sets the stage for a special election to be held from Aug. 13 to 20, NABJ President Sarah Glover confirmed on Tuesday. Terry Allen, CEO of 1016 Media and a senior account executive for FedEx Services, and Tanzi West Barbour, chief communications officer of the Wayfinder Foundation, the incumbent, each received 31 votes. Seventeen were cast for Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, who dropped out of the race. Candidates forum (video). Announcement of winners (video).

·         Panelists on “‘Enemies of the People’: Journalism in the Trump Era,” sponsored by Conde Nast, debated the philosophical question of what tactics the press should use in opposing President Trump’s demagoguing of the media. “The guy who fights the other person’s fight tends to lose,” Jelani Cobb, New Yorker writer, told Journal-isms in explaining why the journalist’s job is informing the public, not engaging Trump on his level. Cobb said polls show the public to be hostile to most institutions except police, the military and small business, not just the press, and Trump is taking advantage of that. David Remnick,  the editor of the New Yorker, also on the panel, told Journal-isms by email, “Objectivity, in the strictest sense, is something closer to science than what journalism can achieve. What I do think you aim for is maximal depth and accuracy, and a sense of fairness and context.”

·         David Remnick also messaged, “Trump’s demagoguery is not new, but it is particularly ugly, since it is in the mouth of a President. When he questions the intelligence of [LeBronJames or Maxine Waters, he is using barely-hidden racist codes that have a long and incendiary history in this country. When he mocks women, whether it is their bodies or their intellectual capabilities, he is stirring up misogynist feelings in the most conscious and ugly manner possible. I just can’t agree with the people who say, ‘Oh, that’s just him trolling.’ Or, ‘Ignore his tweets.’ The social media expressions of this president are no less important than what he says from a podium in Helsinki or Washington. It’s demagoguery and it is, day by day, damaging this country in ways that we have yet to understand fully.”

·         On a similar panel on Trump and the First Amendment sponsored by the Media Law Resource Center, panelists decided the best response was to do a good job as a journalist, according to George Freeman, executive director. However, Freeman told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday that because local news outlets have more credibility with consumers than national ones, he believes that local media might help bridge the gap between media organizations and skeptical citizens. They might hold town halls, for example. Writing Sunday for the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan made a similar point. “Last year when I visited Luzerne County in Pennsylvania to talk to people about their media habits, I was most struck by one thing: The allegiance to local news outlets — the two competing papers in Wilkes-Barre, and the popular ABC affiliate, WNEP, or Channel 16 as everyone called it,” she wrote.

·         Gregory L. Moore, former editor of the Denver Post and now editor in chief of Deke Digital in the Denver area, accepted the NABJ Legacy Award for the late Robert McGruder, diversity champion and editor of the Detroit Free Press. “Oh how I wish Bob McGruder could have seen the room he nurtured, full of talent and passion and spirit,” Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote in a Facebook posting. “Folks came from all over to a celebration of his life and teachings and commitment just hours before he received the 2018 NABJ Legacy Award. Bob brought me to Detroit in 2000, and I continue his mission, one he so eloquently stated — ‘I am the messenger and the message of diversity.’ . . .”

·         Participants on a panel on “African America-Caribbean Connections: Building Bridges and Telling the Stories That Matter” Saturday told of the commonality between people in the U.S. Virgin Islands and those on the mainland. “Slave ships stopped at many ports, but we’re really one people,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Island representatives urged more human interest stories about their recovery from Hurricane Maria, whose devastation of Puerto Rico is better known. An audience member raised on St. Croix, Virgin Islands, said a painting of three women who led a slave revolt graced the Frederiksted post office, and that growing up seeing it every day “makes me negotiate life in a much more confident way.”

·         Director Spike Lee previewed his new “BlackKkKlansman” movie at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The movie opens Aug. 10. Lee took questions along with the movie’s star, John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington. The true story of a black cop who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan debuted to raves this year at the Cannes Film Festival. In a question-and-answer session, Lee said, “I’ve been saying these two words since ‘School Daze’ in 1987 — ‘Wake Up.’ The first two words in ‘Do the Right Thing’ were ‘wake up.’ Those two words are important today. As the young people say, ‘Get woke. Stay woke.’ ” Lee said he was “100 percent behind” Jemele Hill, who criticized Trump as a white supremacist, and said more African Americans should aspire to work behind the cameras.

·         . . . Spike Lee also said he interviewed former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who toward the end of his life recanted his past views as a segregationist. Lee interviewed Wallace for his 1997 documentary “Four Little Girls” about the Birmingham, Ala., church bombings that killed four black girls in 1963. “I saw a man who knew he was going to die, to meet his maker,” Lee said. “He knew he was going to hell.” Washington mentioned “the lexicon of hate” and said, “We’ve got to be more aware of the words we use, even in our own community.”

·         A Thursday panel, “Detroit Basketball: Then and Now” included former star players Isiah Thomas, Spencer Haywood and Steve Smith, and former Detroit News writer Vincent Goodwill. “Goodwill and Smith, both Detroit Pershing High School grads, beamed with pride as they talked about Haywood (also a Pershing alum) and his accomplishments. Haywood’s historic 1971 Supreme Court case ended the NBA rule that barred players from being drafted into the league until four years after their high school graduation. . . .,” NABJ recalled. Haywood is now chairman of the board of directors for the National Basketball Retired Players Association, which is receiving “over $15 million a year” from players LeBron JamesSteph CurryDwyane Wade and Kevin Durant “to get all of us the same health insurance that they have!,” Haywood told USA Today.

·         Spencer Haywood was among six people who received Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards Friday from the NABJ Sports Task Force. Others were Brenda Gatlin, the first women’s coach in Michigan to also coach a boys high school team and the first woman to be inducted into the Detroit Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame; Jimmy Raye II, who at Michigan State in 1966 became the first black quarterback from the South to lead his team to a national football championship; Willie Horton, a seven-time All-Star in his 17-year career in major league baseball through the 1960s and into the 1970s, mostly with the Detroit Tigers; Lowell Perry, wide receiver and safety for the University of Michigan football team who became the NFL’s first African American assistant coach in 1957 with Pittsburgh. Nine years later, he became the first African American TV analyst to broadcast an NFL game to a national audience. Rob Parker, a Detroit journalist for 20 years, was the Sports Task Force’s Journalist of the Year.

·         The Sports Task Force had seven task force-themed workshops and panel discussions, its most ever.

·         “This year we announced the first-ever NABJ Sports Task Force service award which will be given to a Sports Task Force member who goes above and beyond in service to the organization,” Task Force Chair A. Sherrod Bailey told members on Monday. “This year’s winner was President Emeritus Gregory H. Lee Jr. We also announced the creation of the Jemele Hill Courage award, which will be given out beginning next year to the Sports Task Force member whose courage journalistically has stood out in a way that sets them apart from others.”

·         NABJ-Chicago was named the NABJ Professional Chapter of the Year and North Carolina A&T State University was Student Chapter of the Year.

·         “Downtown Detroit landmarks were the backdrop Saturday for the #NABJ18 Motor City 5K Run, Walk, Bike Powered by FCA US. . . . The 5K Run/Walk and 7.3-mile bike ride started at Hart Plaza, moved past the International Memorial to the Detroit Riverwalk, past Cobo Center andJoe Louis Arena, and along Detroit’s riverfront. . . .” NABJ announced.

·         “Our first official panel was THE INTERSECTION OF RACISM AND SEXISM IN SPORTS, moderated by David Aldridge,” A. Sherrod Blakely, chair of the Sports Task Force, told members. “Like most of the panels last week, the hotel staff had to bring in extra chairs and that still wasn’t enough to prevent some people from having to stand. The feedback I’ve received from this panel was that the content was really good, but there just didn’t seem to be enough time to take the kind of deep dive into this subject that some would have wanted. Maybe scaling it back some and not having it be as broad, was one suggestion.”

·         Members were invited to a conversation Saturday with tennis icon Zina Garrison “on the 30th anniversary of her winning a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 28th anniversary of her becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to make the Wimbledon finals.”

·         About 70 NABJ members saw a preview Saturday of the feature-length documentary “Sugar Town,” which debuted Monday on the Investigation Discovery channel. “Set in New Iberia, La., the show looks at the tension that arose in the racially divided town after the shooting death of 22-year-old Victor White III while in police custody,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Present were Rev. Victor White (father of the slain Victor White III) and radio talk show host Tony Brown. The film drew “a passionate crowd,” publicist Chelsye Burrows said.

·         NABJ spotlighted 30 authors, most  of them NABJ members and some first-time authors. “Employing the format of the popular ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ television show, member journalists will conduct one-on-one interviews with each author at scheduled times over three days (Aug. 1-3) during the convention in Detroit,” NABJ said earlier. Despite the differences in quality among the authors’ products, each received a certificate declaring that NABJ believes the author has produced “outstanding literary work.”

·         Over a complimentary Thursday morning breakfast, “In conversation with Delece Smith-Barrow of the Hechinger Report, Jim Shelton, Head of Education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative [spoke] about the philanthropy’s work to make opportunity real for every child, especially those historically underserved, by providing educators with the tools and resources they need to prepare each child holistically — academically, physically, socially, and emotionally — for success,” according to an NABJ announcement.

·         The School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University created a website to showcase its students’ coverage of the convention.


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