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Why We Still Need the National Association of Black Journalists

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This is a question that comes up so often, I might as well get the answer out of the way before someone asks me again.

I'm in Indianapolis attending NABJ's 31st Annual Convention and Career Fair.

Black journalists from across the country will spend the next three days focusing on career development, attending workshops networking....and, yes, partying.

Yes, there are non-black journalists here as well, but for the most part, they are here as recruiters.

I caught up with Bryan Monroe, NABJ President and the Vice President and Editorial Director of Ebony and Jet Magazines, Johnson Publishing Co., and asked him why--in 2006--do we still need NABJ?

Monroe's answer echoed the sentiments of many black journalists today:

"If you look at the reality of the news business, blacks are still woefully underrepresented in America's newsrooms. We make up about 13 percent of the population and between 3 and 5 percent of most mainstream newsrooms. If you slice that even further and look at blacks in leadersship positions, there's no functional diversity," he said.

"In the news business, it's important to have media that reflects the communities that they cover, otherwise you cannot accurately know what is happening in your community," Monroe said.

With diversity, listeners, viewers and readers get a "full and accurate" picture of "the communities that they live in .

"That's just a function of good journalism," Monroe said, adding that diversity also makes good business sense.

"The importance of journalism in American society is we are the only business protected by the Constitution and the First Amendment," he said. "We have an obligation to make sure that the report is accurate and complete. And it's not just about who we hire in the newsrooms," Monroe pointed out. "But at the end of the day, it's about the journalism that we do."

Lynn Pitts, Executive Producer of NBC News "Today, Weekend Edition," says she's often asked the same question, and she puts the shoe on the other foot.

"If you walk into a newsroom and there were 50 black people in the newsroom, and one white person--one lonely little soul in the newsroom --who had a problem, who would you go to? Suppose you had a conflict with another employee, who would you seek out to talk to about it ?" she asked.

"That's how NABJ started in the '80s," she said. "That's how it grew into being the organization that it is today."

Thirty-one years later, there are still newsrooms across the country where a black person is still that lonely soul.


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30 Comments

Ms Mitchell, majority of African-Americans, if not all understand why organizations such as NABJ, NABC, NOMA, NBSEE, BDPA, NBA(no it is not the basketball league), and other A.A. professional organizations exist.

But I digress a little bit on this one, only for the sake of explaining this to other ethnic groups.

I want EVERY ethnic group to understand, we would NOT have such organizations if all citizens of the United States were treated as Americans first, and NOT as ethnic or religious groups mainly.

White people, Black people can't come to you with their problems of perceived or real issues of racial tension on the job. We are told to overlook it, or it is not what seems to be. Matter of fact it is sometimes swept under the rug, until it festers and boils over into ugliness.

As long as I have been working, NOT ONCE has a white person told me of racial tension from another ethnic group on a job. Understand, complaining about another European being disgruntled with you is not the same.

Latinos and Asians know what I mean by this statement. Though we might have our differences with one another, surprisingly we can talk to one another about the injustice which is heaped upon us, but expected to smile daily through it.

Next time a colleague of color is not smiling at work, it is not because something is amiss at home. And please stop perpetuating the "ANGRY BLACK MAN" persona.


Diversity Should be atleast in every major newspaper. Hearing one sided story from one segment of our society does not make for good reading. For instance,every time I read the paper, blacks are dying from everything from hang-nails to turf-toe. Diversity will bring about fair and balance news.

Mary:

Question for you, or perhaps for Bryan Monroe: How many Asians, Hispanics or whites does he have working for him at Jet and Ebony?

In other words, does HE practice diversity? Or do those standards only apply to others?

MITCHELL COMMENT:

i can't answer that question since I don't work for Jet or Ebony. Monroe is a new hire. But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household.

I think most would agree that its needed, just like other business/occupation associations dedicated to blacks/minorities are needed. We are underpresented in large parts of the business world, in areas like Banking, Healthcare (doctors, nurses, other professional) and Science/Research. Areas where we could have a major impact on socieity, an in our own neighborhoods. Besides, what better way to build contacts and friendships with people who can relate to your struggles, an provide some support.

It is so very obvious why we need organizations like NABJ. The recent news fervor about Andrew Young's resignation from Wal-Mart is a classic example. He spoke the truth and it was deemed as racist. IN his comments he acknowledged that Wal-Mart's presence has hurt many mom and pop businesses. But he added that these merchants had sold inferior goods and bad food in the black neighborhoods. He then said that there has been a flow of retailers from ethnic background such as Jews, Koreans, and Arabs. Anyone who has lived in predominately black communities has experienced the presence of these merchants. When I was a boy in the 1960s we would never buy meats and breads from the corner store in our Westside community, because often it was not fresh. Even today, if I am back in the "hood", I will not purchase these kinds of products because they are often overpriced and not very fresh.

The media has portrayed this as racist, when they have probably not had the experience that Andrew Young was referencing. This is something that I would expect that at least half of the black journalist would understand and the story would be less newsworthy, because it's an everyday thing in the ghetto. Now the media is taking target practice and is labeling this great leader as a racist. His comments may have been insensitive, but he spoke of the truth of a persistent problem of living in communities where the merchants care little about their customers.


wow...what a refreshing change of pace. and something i agree with 100%. the NABJ is much-needed.

For someone who is trying to point out that blacks are treated unfairly, you have a pretty nice job! You've been traveling around and going to conferences for several weeks now!

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Actually, that's not quite true. I went to the International AIDS conference in Toronto--while still turning in my column. And now I'm at NABJ. Black reporters get vacation and professional development days, too.

I have always admired the work of the NABJ. It is an important contributor to newspapers and news services. The problem I have always had is getting new journalists to sign up. I don't think the message you delivered here has been heard enough.

The Andrew Young story caused my heart to hurt. This again is a prime example of those (white) folks not having a clue what it's like to be a minority (black in particular). We must maintain these organizations and societies that provide a venue to share ideas, opinions and accomplishments. These avenues are needed to train the young and assist the forefathers. If not us than who!

Mary,
I sometimes wished I had pursued a minor in journalism while back in college. I missed passing the entrance exam by 3 questions, but life circumstances prevented me from trying again. But a journalism class taught me firsthand how whites view things differently than blacks. Our class was responsible for doing nightly newscasts, with small groups assigned to each night. The grad assistant served as editor and she was black. She would give us our assignments for news stories. At the end of the semester, one white student complained to the professor about some of the stories not being important enough to be considered news. These stories happened to be of importance to the African American student body, but not to her. We definitely need to have representation in the media and print. This underrepresentation of blacks probably caused Andrew Young to step down at Wal-mart. We in the 'hood know everything he said WAS AND STILL IS TRUE. That is not racism. I wonder what would happen if white people "had" to buy their food from these store owners. When will a black columnist/reporter stand uup and defend Young? Will you be the first Mary?

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Young's mistake was making a sweeping generalization. I think everyone knows that some of the Arab and Korean store owners in the black community are ripping off their customers by selling expired can goods and spoiled meat. The city of Chicago has fined these stores and the Liquor Department has gone after their licenses.

So Young certainly didn't lie, but he did what many of us have probably done. He unintentionally stereotyped these ethnic groups.

That mistake was enough to sink his ship--at least as far as Wal-Mart is concerned.

I applied for work at Jet/Ebony a long time ago when I was a young graphic designer. I have a very obvious eastern european surname, and I am a male. I was never called for an interview. I'm not sure how many white males of eastern european descent work at Jet/Ebony, or how many have ever applied. Maybe I'm the only one. I guess I could have assumed racism, but I was too busy trying to find work to worry about why I never got a call.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

i can't answer that question since I don't work for Jet or Ebony. Monroe is a new hire. But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household.

Mary are you saying diversity can just "not happen" at major black owned companies "hey no jews koreans or whites applied so thats ok" yet any other company has to scout, make allowances for set aside jobs etc. for blacks That doesn't sound right.

Please clarify this.

MITCHELL COMMENT;

No. I think what I said was clear enough. You can twist it anyway you choose. That's your preogative.

MARC says
"The media has portrayed this as racist, when they have probably not had the experience that Andrew Young was referencing."
MARC WAKE UP READ THE PAPER
Andrew Young portrayed these remarks as racist insensitive and begged not to be only judged on these remarks. He resigned without being asked.
I believe the exact opposite is true these remarks by blacks are routinely dismisssed by the media and had they been uttered about blacks Activists and preachers would be in the streets demanding the head of whomever uttered them, asked the company he/she worked for to set aside jobs training for blacks and pay for sensitivity sessions for top executives and management.

Back on point you like every other person including Andrew Young could and apparently you did exercise your right not to by spoiled groceries. As far as costs of goods high crime adds to costs and even if you or Andrew Young or any other black had opened a store to serve the community the additopnal costs would have to be passed on. Its business not racism.

Blacks including Andrew Young continue to complain about Koreans Jews and others owning businesses in "their neighborhoods" making a profit and moving to safer better communities it sounds like it was ok for you Marc and Andrew Young to move out of the "hood" but its some sort of affront if non blacks do it. What is up with that?

MITCHELL COMMENT;

No. I think what I said was clear enough. You can twist it anyway you choose. That's your preogative.

Mary I haven't twisted anything you said.
You wrote
"But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household."

I am merely asking you for a clarification. Are you saying an all black company is acceptable because nobody other than blacks applied for jobs?

Why so defensive?
Patrick

MITCHELL COMMENT:

You asked a question. I answered it. Next.

CONGRATULATIONS!

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Thanks!!!

"But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household"

First, if a magazine were to OPENLY target White households, all holy hell would break loose. The ones that are mostly read by Whites must also meet quotas, regardless.
But keep writing, you'll get pretty good someday.

Arab and Korean merchants are ripping off black people in their community....Therefore, I ask, why in the end is it called white racism? Whites will still get the blunt of the blame. Also, why do the arabs still come off as brothers, pals, etc. to black leaders? Even though its the arab muslims who practice 'chattel slavery' of Black Africans in Sudan and Mauritania. Could somebody explain this to me? I'm confused by it.

I have a question for those who bring up Koreans and Arabs merchants ripping off people. When the media and Black Leadership bring up the subject it always comes across as 'White Racism'. Koreans and Arabs are NOT white, although arabs are in reality, I suppose, a caucasian people. Also, Black Leadership always praises arabs, usually criticizes Israel, and consider arabs as brothers, pals, collegues, etc. Yet, it is the arabs who practice 'SLAVERY of Black Africans'in Sudan and Mauritania and perhaps elsewhere, so why there policy? Could somebody explain?

MITCHELL COMMENT:

You're speaking in sweeping generalities. Of course, blacks are critical of what Arabs are doing in Sudan. Black leaders lobbied for and finally got Congress to pass a resolution calling the ongoing terrorism against blacks in the Sudan as "genocide."

Certainly there are Arabs who are mistreating blacks, but not Arabs can be put in that category.

Diversity in the newsroom is worse off then it was 30 years ago.

In the Converging Media textbook written by: John V. Pavil, Shawn McIntosh in 2004; In Chapter ten: Journalism, they Talked about women and minoriites; in 1998, the American Society of Newspaper Editors sponsored an industry-wide survey on employmnet of women and minoriites by U.S daily newspapers. The ASNE survey found that out: 18 percent of employess are minorities, with slightly more men than women; 10 percent for men; 8 percent for women. Blacks make up the largest portion of minority newspaper employees: 10 percent; with Latinos at 5 percent, Asian Americans at 2 percent; and Native Americans at one percent. Minorites make up just 11 percent of newspaper executives and managers. Vernon Stone conducted the survey, sponsored by the RTNDA reavled in a 1994 survey of television newsrooms: 82 percent are white; 10 perce nt are black; Hispanics 5 percent, and Native American 1 percent.

In April 2006, Camile Edwards, the news director for NBC 5 News, visited Columbia Columbia, hosted by the Columbia College Association of Black Journalist, talked about of less respect, minorities and women receive in the newsroom, she talked about not being liked by the ABC affliate in Philadelphia, she talked about of much respect and recognization, she get at NBC 5, and her earlier stint, she got at ABC 7.

We Journalists students, at Columbia College, needed to have the CCBAJ to increase our chances and oppourtines to have an internship, and maybe a career in the mainstream media.

Edwards revealed me a shocking about divesity in the newsroom: there are fewer people with disabilites, than women; blacks; latinos; and Asian-American; and Native Americans.

I have more odds stacked against me than most minorities Journalism students: I have a learning-disability; ADHD; African-American; and I will be in early 30's when I graduate.

I recently became a disability adovocate at Access Living. I would want to convince them to address the issue of too few disabled Journalist. I may not enter the newsroom, to have a career, but I want to see multiple of Journlaist with disabilites in the newsroom. In Chicago we only have Karen Meyer and Jim Mullin, in Television and Clarence Page in print.

Any help here appreciated Mary Says the questions is answeredlets move on. i Cant find the answer

MITCHELL COMMENT:

i can't answer that question since I don't work for Jet or Ebony. Monroe is a new hire. But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household.

Mary are you saying diversity can just "not happen" at major black owned companies "hey no jews koreans or whites applied so thats ok" yet any other company has to scout, make allowances for set aside jobs etc. for blacks That doesn't sound right.

Please clarify this.

MITCHELL COMMENT;

No. I think what I said was clear enough. You can twist it anyway you choose. That's your preogative.


Mary I haven't twisted anything you said.
You wrote
"But the question to ask here is how many Asians, Hispanics or whites apply to work for Jet or Ebony which are both magazines targeting the African-American household."

I am merely asking you for a clarification. Are you saying an all black company is acceptable because nobody other than blacks applied for jobs?

Why so defensive?
Patrick

MITCHELL COMMENT:

You asked a question. I answered it. Next.


MITCHELL COMMENT:

You should contact Ebony/Jet directly. I'm sure they will be able to answer your inquiry.

Mary, Black Americans need ever thing we can get from our own. No one else supports us. We need to do more supporting of our selves and we need to stick together. I will like if you can email and send me your mailing address. I want to send you some interesting information.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

marym@suntimes.com

Of course black owned companies don't have to hire non blacks. This is yet another example of "black privilege".

MITCHELL COMMENT:

So what about Latino stores that have only Latino employees, or Chinese restaurants or Thai restaurants?

Star, I totally agree. I am always telling my fellow white people that we need to look out for our own and stick together. Mary, restaurants are a different type of business than companies. Many of the employees at the types of restaurants you mentioned are family members. Also, when going to an ethnic restaurant if you have servers that are of the same background as the type of food that is being served, it looks better and it makes customers feel that it is more authentic food. I'm sure if people went to a soul food restaurant the customers would not want to see red haired or blond haired Irish looking people serving and cooking food because the customers might think this restaurant doesn't know how to cook soul food.

MITCHELL COMMENT:

Business is business, Jerry.

I think that people should have an understanding of other people's cultures. There are of course the times when there are places of business where it is not uncommon for people to hire peoples NOT of their culture...e.g in respect to Jet/Ebony magazine being a magazine that highlights Black culture or a publication such as the Romanian Tribune. In cases like those its generally of huge importance to the company to hire an employee to be sensible of the cultures of the people reading the publication. So yeah it does seem like privilege to people in these respective cultures as they might be of these cultures. So in light of Patrick's comments, yeah it might have been a harsh decision for you to take, but such is the way of culturally influenced businesses. This circumstance would not be cool if one were applying for a job that one would be highly sucessful in getting based merely on their qualifications alone. I never really understood why big corporations needed such things like affirmative action, you would think that there were enough black people to get the jobs out their by their qulifications and personalities alone....like me!! :)

Thank you for your time


I think it is terrible we have to even have discussions like this. People should be looked at as people, not as something you pull out of a crayon box. Racism is racism, whether you are white, black, hispanic, asian, or other. We can't turn the whole world around to favor one race because of something that happened before most of us were even born--how is that going to help healing in the world? It's not! If you have magazines, jobs, movies, sports teams, colleges, financial aid, or anything else that favors one ethnic group specifically--that is racism. It can't be both ways--racism if whites do it, but not racist if any other ethnic group does it. I wonder if some minority groups really want things to get better, or it they just want things to favor "their people" as I hear so many people say in the press. If a white person said that, they would be called racist. I'm sure you have decided that I'm white based on my point of view, but you are wrong--my dad is black and my mother is white and my views come from seeing injustice from both groups.

Mary,Mary,Mary. Let me first start out by saying I believe that any man/woman that does any crime should pay :pay extra if they commit crimes towards children, seniors,and handicap people of any kind.Most children know not what they are doing, even when they think they do or look like they do,they should not be purposely used.

I have not seen the R Kelly sex tapes, I do not know R kelly personally. But I am a fan of R Kelly music. I don't think that he should his style of music.To me changing his style of music he would probaly loose me as fan. I also think that would be admitting to guilt.

I'm 37 years old I have a 16 year old daughter that appears as a 25 year old woman. She walks around telling people she is 18 years old when I'm not looking. Which does not make it ok for people (men) to treat like she is an adult or justify any man wanting to be with her just because of the way she looks or acts. a lot of times after a few minutes of conversating with her a man would know her age.

This leads me to your article in the Sunday Suntimes May 6th 2007 regarding the appearance of R Kelly at Oprahs premire of the Color Purple (every star in that movie was cheated out of their oscar). If R Kelly is proven guilty in the courts he should suffer the amount of punishments to the fullest. But because nobody on the face on the earth is perfect we should not throw stones. And even if the courts prove him innocent, and he knows that he is wrong GOD has the last say so, nobody has to say a word or lift a finger he will pay more worser than sitting behind bars. Who's to say he is not already suffering. And I think a lot of these stars are now seeing no amount of money can save people any more. He probally can't even sleep at night. He also has daughters of his own and I'm not wishing bad own his children but a lot of times what goes around comes around. and is worser the second time around.

I'm saying this to you mary because you seem to have this attitude towards this man and he has not had a fair trial yet.
And that is not fair and I believe if you hold this gruge against him you are going to block your blessing. at last let the courts handle it first. Or pray and ask god to help him to say he's guilty if he did this. But I do know he may asked GOD to please forgive him and also to the young lady that appeared in the video. But if all of the people build up all this hate against him thiis would only make him posper. And like I said earlier I'm a fan of his music and he has done nothing but turned out hits since this situation has aired and it makes me wonder if this was even a publicity stunt or what.


I say this GOD looks out for the kids, elderly, handicap,(those who can't help themself) so you don't have be so upset about this. GOD has the last word. Why do you think R Kelly ran to the church because he knows the lord and how he works. This would only be the thig that would save him.

Yours Truley
Darvet (Boone) Naugles

Dear Mary: I am writing in response to your Sun-Times column dated 10 MAY 07 concerning the off duty police detective who attacked the 11 year old black boy in the Beverly neighborhood. I am a black Chicago Police Officer with over 20 years of service. The conduct of the detective and the racially based decision

DEAR MARY: I AM WRITING ABOUT YOUR COLUMN DATED 10 MAY 07 CONCERNING THE WHITE CHICAGO POLICE DETECTIVE WHO ATTACKED THE 11 YEAR OLD BLACK BOY. I AM A BLACK CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER WITH OVER 20 YEARS OF SERVICE. I WAS SO INFURIATED BY WHAT I READ THAT I JUST HAD TO EXPRESS MY FEELINGS. THE CONDUCT BY THE OFF-DUTY DETECTIVE AND THE RACIALLY BIASED ARREST MADE BY THE RESPONDING WHITE OFFICERS AND THE SERGEANT IS NOT ONLY APALLING BUT TYPICAL OF THE"GOOD OL BOY"MENTALITY OF MANY IN THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPT. I HAVE SEEN TOO MANY RACIALLY BIASED ARREST INVOLVING WHITE OFFICERS AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE.HOPEFULLY WITH YOU BRINGING THIS SITUATION OUT IN THE MEDIA THOSE BLACK CHILDREN CAN RECEIVE SOME JUSTICE AND ALL THOSE WHITE OFFICERS INVOLVED CAN RECEIVE THEIR PROPER PUNISHMENT.

Message for how blacks will be able to stick together.

Ms Mitchell, I read your column when ever I get a chance, I think you are very hard on black men. My comment is on your article, dated June 18, 2007. like so many of your artcles, I get very angry reading them because it is really sad that you have to said these things because they seem to be just making a statment of fact, with me being a 55 year old Black Man, I just want to say, AMAN SISTER.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on August 17, 2006 12:26 PM.

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