By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
Opportunity, education, information and commendation will be at the top of the agenda when the National Association of Black Journalists gathers this week in Indianapolis for its 31st Annual Convention and Career Fair, running Wednesday through Sunday. The NABJ, the largest media organization in the world for people of color, anticipates a strong turnout among its 3,000 members, especially in light of the historic events of the past year.
“This was an amazing year for our journalism,” said Bryan Monroe, NABJ president. “From Hurricane Katrina to the death of Rosa Parks to the Gulf War, journalists showed how important different perspectives are in telling the stories of America and the world.”
One topic that will invariably be talked about among the attendees will be the results of the 2006 Radio-Television News Directors Association/Ball State University study of diversity in the newsroom. “There’s a slight increase this year overall in diversity, although for blacks it’s declining,” Mr. Monroe said. “And if you look at leadership roles, it’s still overwhelmingly white males. So seeing some progress in diversity is a positive step, but I’m very concerned about the lack of growth in African Americans, particularly in markets that serve mainly African American populations.”
Mr. Monroe sees the NABJ as a powerful tool for getting the message to the powers that be that diversity works. “We have to continue to do what NABJ was founded on and has been doing for 31 years, which is to show the journalistic imperative, the business imperative. We have to show that readers, listeners and viewers will choose to go to content that is most relevant to them,” he said.
Workshops and Panels
A plethora of workshops and panels have been scheduled to discuss topics such as the RTNDA study, and the five-day conference will also highlight journalistic achievement with a series of awards. On Friday evening, Al Roker, NBC weatherman and feature reporter for the “Today” show, hosts the Hall of Fame Banquet. The 2006 inductees will be Lerone Bennett Jr., former executive editor of Ebony Magazine; William Raspberry, Washington Post columnist; and Albert Fitzpatrick Jr., former assistant VP of Knight Ridder.
The 2006 Salute to Excellence Awards Competition will recognize exemplary coverage of people or issues of African Americans or in the African Diaspora. The competition honors work in print, television, radio, online and photojournalism. Among this year’s nominees are many well-known TV pros, including Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News,” Michele Norris of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and Mike Wallace, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley and Scott Pelley of CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
Ren%E9; Syler, news anchor for CBS’s “Early Show,” will host the black tie-optional affair Saturday night. In addition to the Salute to Excellence Awards, special honors will be bestowed. Black Enterprise Magazine founder, Chairman and Publisher Earl Graves will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial columnist Cynthia Tucker will be honored with the Journalist of the Year Award. Errin Haines of the Associated Press and Trymaine Lee of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans will share the Emerging Journalist of the Year Award, and DeMarco Morgan of WISN-TV in Milwaukee will be honored for community service.
Among the workshops, the NABJ lineup covers a wide variety of topics ranging from plagiarism to the age-old question of whether entertainment and news can co-exist in the newsroom. CNN will sponsor a workshop inspired by Hurricane Katrina called “When Disaster Strikes,” while leaders from the Big 3 networks will take part in a discussion group about new technologies and “The Future of Television.”
“I’m really excited about the lineup we have for the convention,” Mr. Monroe said. “We hope to announce that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will be doing a live remote. She’s the president of Liberia, the first elected female leader of Africa. So her remote will be huge. We have a lot of wonderful things going on.”
Sports journalism and professional players’ interaction with the media will be a major topic at the NABJ Sports Task Force sessions. “We believe this year will be our strongest professional development programming yet,” said Sports Task Force Chairman Gregory Lee. The Sports Task Force also will present the annual Sports Pioneer Awards, sponsored by the NBA. Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy has been selected as one of this year’s honorees.
Football will also be on display in the NABJ Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. Sony Entertainment’s “Gridiron Gang” will be shown in anticipation of its Sept. 15 release. The Phil Joanou film, based on a real incident, tells the story of Sean Porter (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a juvenile detention camp probation officer who teaches a group of teen felons important life lessons by transforming them into a football team.
31ST ANNUAL NABJ CONVENTION & CAREER FAIR
What: The annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists
Where: Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis
When: Aug. 16-20