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The Knowledge I Gained After Leading the Largest Minority Journalism Organization for 4 Years

Friday, August 9, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sarah Glover
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The Knowledge I Gained After Leading the Largest Minority Journalism Organization for 4 Years 

By Sarah Glover, NABJ President 2015-2019

 

Aug. 9, 2019

 

It’s been no easy task leading the nation’s largest journalism of color organization for four years. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) achieved many milestones and growth under my tenure. It grew to its highest membership number on record with 4,421 members in March 2019 and reportedly 4,116 convention-goers registered for our 44th Annual Convention Aug. 7-11, 2019 in Miami. 


As the first two-term president of the NABJ, the first order of business was to right the ship and move our organization to better financial footing. I accomplished this task by working with our board, staff and stakeholders to develop the NABJ Strategic Plan 2017-2020 and earn the trust of our partners and supporters. We achieved more than $2.2 million in surplus under my historic tenure and expanded our scholarship fund to endowment status with $1.3 million in the fund. 


While we’ve experienced many organizational successes, we remain steadfast in our mission to elevate and advocate for Black journalists and to push for better coverage for Black communities and communities of color. Which leads me to share some conclusions I’ve drawn after four years of working in the media diversity space.  

 

1) “Unconscious” Bias

There is no unconscious bias. Bias is implicit, on the rise and evident in society. It also exists inside many newsrooms across the United States. Decisions are made every day on what deserves coverage and who covers it, as well as who does the hiring and who’s hired. Workplace bias training needs immediate implementation across the media industry. The Ferguson Commission Report (2015) speaks to this notion and prescribes anti-bias training for the media in Missouri. The Ferguson Commission Report, authored by a 16-member independent committee appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, found racial bias in the mainstream coverage of the Michael Brown shooting and highlighted the media’s troubles with reporting on race. The report prescribed "anti-bias training" focusing on "impoverished communities, people of color, and boys and men of color." I submit the need for anti-bias training is a national media issue desperately needed in newsrooms across America and I encourage newsrooms to enact anti-bias training programs immediately. 

 

2) Black Males Misunderstood

Representation of Black males in the media is overwhelmingly negative and has reached a pivotal point where change must occur. Black men can and should be sources and subjects in all slices of life stories, and coverage of Black male subjects must move beyond the saturation of crime stories. I urge media outlets to do an audit of their newspapers, digital products and newscasts and share their results with their staffs.  

 

3) Black Women’s Voices Missing

There’s a “blackout” in the #MeToo movement. There are a lack of diverse voices within this powerful and needed movement. Multiple sectors, including the media industry, must address the void and elevate issues germane to Black women and other women of color. #MeToo is not only about crimes. It’s also about discrimination, harassment, unequal pay and equal opportunity.

 

4) Issues of Global Diaspora Need Attention

There are global issues that are impacting people of color and those living in the United States that are not being told. From climate change to education, a focus on how communities of color are faring and why disparities still exist is needed. 

 

5) Straight Up Diversity

Many companies dance around diversity. The United States will be majority minority in just 25 years, according to the U.S. Census, and most newsrooms and not prepared, nor do they have adequate plans to prepare themselves. Action must occur now. Hiring, retention and promotion programs must be developed to improve the makeup of an entire company’s workforce, including people of color, at every level. I call on media organizations to establish clear goals and generate strategic plans to achieve those goals. 


6) Funding Diversity 

I also must note diversity organizational funding by foundations is woefully inadequate. With recent grants announced as high as $300 million for local news initiatives, diversity funding by foundations is almost nonexistent in comparison and paltry. When I came into office in the fall of 2015, I announced my goal for NABJ was to receive a $1 million multi-year grant. NABJ is not only deserving, but it is needed. Considering the major impact that NABJ has in the media diversity space, it became my charge as president to demonstrate our successful organization track record to external stakeholders. I hope a million dollar multi-year grant comes to fruition for NABJ in the near future. It is sorely needed. My hope is the hard work will pay off.


7) Words Matter

The news media continues to struggle with covering race and ethnicity. Newsroom staff makeup is a factor. Newsrooms made up of journalists from all backgrounds is necessary to accurately cover our country’s changing demographics. NABJ worked to assist the Associated Press with Stylebook updates, including entries on race and ethnicity, from 2017 to 2019. If it’s racist, call it so in your reporting. 

 

I look forward to delving further into these issues over time.



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