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NABJ RoundUp: September 2020: Convention Rewind

NABJ RoundUp — Convention Special





President’s Letter: A Call to Action

NABJ family, we made history! Our first virtual convention, NABJ-NAHJ 2020, was a huge success.

  • With 3,713 registrants, NABJ-NAHJ 2020 was our sixth-highest registration count in our convention history.
  • For 80 percent of our registrants, the NABJ-NAHJ convention was their first virtual experience.
  • 96 percent were satisfied in some way.
  • 90 percent would recommend the NABJ-NAHJ virtual convention to others.

You, the members, made this a success. We thank you for believing this was possible and making it so. We thank you for joining us as we braved uncharted waters and made NABJ an industry leader in the virtual journalism space.

If we could, we would rest on our laurels, but we can’t. There is much more work to be done. Too many of our members still face hostile work environments, experience micro-aggressions, discrimination, limited upper mobility and inequity in pay. They receive few opportunities to work on coveted assignments or to participate in specialty units. They also do not receive the training and mentoring often given to their White counterparts, and their voices are silenced
when it comes to story development and where the news organizations target their coverage.

In newsrooms around the country, Black journalists are taking a stand and demanding fairness and justice. We applaud you. We support you. We are joining you. The NABJ Board is holding a series of meetings with CEOs, publishers and corporate heads from all platforms demanding they deliver on decades of promises to increase the number of Black journalists at all levels of the news industry, especially in top management. At this year’s convention, we introduced
a new hashtag to underscore our demand for change, #FairNewsroomsNow.

NABJ also continues to monitor news coverage. Quite frankly, we have been dismayed at the number of racial incidents in the media that insult or offend the Black community and sometimes Black journalists. NABJ Media Monitoring Chair Eric Deggans recently created a tip sheet to help our local chapters respond to these incidents.

The National Board always stands ready to assist.

The changes we are demanding in coverage and in the newsroom are bigger than journalism. These changes ultimately will lead to stories that tell the truths about Black America, truths that will contribute to a more equitable country and perhaps lead to a more equitable world.

Yours in Service,

Dorothy Tucker/NABJ President/ CBS Chicago Investigative Reporter/@Dorothy4NABJ

Founder Norma Adams-Wade: NABJ’s Virtual Voyage

Greetings Again, My Fellow Voyagers

The Starship Enterprise has landed, and as one of NABJ’s 44 Founders, I am thrilled to have been aboard. I am having fun with this Star Trek analogy. I am having even more fun writing to congratulate our NABJ-NAHJ leaders — and you, my NABJ travel companions — on a successful voyage during our first-ever virtual annual convention & career fair in the stratosphere.

This is a follow-up to the May 12, 2020, letter I wrote for the NABJ newsletter in which I compared our first virtual convention to a Star Trek experience and urged our members and aspirants to join the adventure. For the young ones, Star Trek was a wildly popular 1960s television series. It featured odysseys of spaceship Captain James T. Kirk and his futuristic crew. The show opened with the now iconic statement, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
(Apologies to the women.)

I am proud to say we ventured into our uncharted virtual convention territory and successfully completed our mission. As I mentioned in my previous letter, all kudos go to our fearless leaders — Madam President Dorothy Tucker, Executive Director Drew Berry, their tireless and skilled staff and support teams, and our Board of Directors.

Design by

I previously compared this avant-garde 2020 pursuit to when we, the Founders, blasted off 45 years ago (come December) not knowing where our pioneering decision to organize this body would lead. Also, as I said previously, we had neither a road map nor a mission control center to guide us. The success of our venture is that our original 44 is now well over 3,000 members strong.

We succeeded then and we have succeeded now. This virtual trek is now in the books. It’s a done deal rather than a no-deal — yet, one that might not have happened at all. That’s my point. You have to have someone with a vision. And you have to have someone with execution. Our team at the top showed us that they had vision and execution. Rather than having to say that 2020 was the year when the coronavirus halted our annual launch, we can say NABJ-NAHJ successfully
blasted off full speed ahead.

I previously urged our members to sign up for this first-ever virtual endeavor, accept that there surely would be technical glitches, decide in advance to forgive them, and be determined to keep it moving. Were there glitches? Yes. Were some meal deliveries foiled? A few. Did that and other disconnects stop the music or the show? No! That’s the good news, and I’m happy to deliver it. I hope our leaders and supporters have rested well by now, because we still
have the future of Black journalists to save. So, all aboard and fasten your seat belts!

Founder Norma Adams-Wade,The Dallas Morning News/Texas Metro News/The Garland Journal/I Messenger Media, LLC/TMN Blog Talk Radio

W.E.B. Du Bois Plenary: 
Black and Hispanic Journalists Examine the Criminal Justice System & COVID-19

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the criminal justice reform movement was making progress, advancing policies to reduce incarceration and removing legal and cultural barriers to give formerly incarcerated people a fair shot at a second
chance. Now, the movement finds itself responding to a crisis on top of a crisis, advocating for emergency release policies to help stop the spread of the coronavirus inside jails and prisons across the country.

Inequities within our criminal justice system have intensified. Historically, communities of color and people living in poverty have been more likely to be incarcerated. Today, incarcerated people, confined to overcrowded jails, are contracting COVID-19 at alarming rates. And the virus shut down courts across the country, putting justice on hold for thousands of people.

The annual W. E. B. Du Bois Plenary, powered by CZI, brought together unlikely allies and leaders from across the spectrum to discuss what is happening to address the current threat, reforming the system for the future and empowering those the most at stake.

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and Latino USA anchor and executive producer Maria Hinojosa co-moderated this insightful discussion featuring 16 panelists, many of whom have been incarcerated and now work to right injustices that hold people, like themselves, back after they have paid their debt to society.

Holt moderated from a perspective of having embedded himself in a prison facility for three days to experience, first-hand, how inmates live. Panelist Vivian Nixon, who served 3 years in prison and 4 years on probation, shared thoughts on why so many women of color are incarcerated for crime that others are not.

Panelist Ebony Underwood addressed how her father’s incarceration when she was young, affected her and her family. Prosecutor and former defense attorney Marc Dupree addressed how where a case is prosecuted can determine the level of justice one receives. He shared experiences of defending people who could not be judged by a jury of their peers because there were no jurors who were peers.

Panelists also addressed discrimination against former inmates that prevents them from fully reintegrating into society — obtaining work, securing an apartment, being able to vote — because of their records.

Watch the replay.

COVID-19: A Tale of Two Americas

A group of leading health experts believe COVID-19, which rapidly spread across the American soil just a few months before social unrest exploded in the U.S., presents an opportune moment for the U.S. to find real and permanent solutions to close the health gap and others areas where there are inequities.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, former U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Gail Christopher, award-winning social change agent; Dr. Dolores Acevedo Garcia, a top expert on racial/ethnic and children health equity; and Derek Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, shared their observations and insights about the coronavirus pandemic during “COVID-19: A Tale of Two Americas Luncheon Session,” sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Moderated by Rich Besser, president of the foundation, posed several questions to the panelists, including asking what can be done to close the persistent health and opportunity gaps between the haves and have-nots to create one America.

Benjamin said, “As we look at these two different worlds … they are now coming together. Many of the things that shut down, including not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from or how daycare would work … This is what poor people have always experienced and I hope people now will have empathy.”

Johnson agreed, saying now is the time to look ahead.

“We are in the middle of an opportune moment that has been created by two pandemics — racism and healthcare, but the opportunity is presented to us because of the George Floyd incident,“ Johnson said. “We have a corporate America that has opened up that racism exists. This gives us an opportunity to determine what kind of America we want — one we can go forward or one we can retreat to the past. The opportunity is for us to decide how we move forward, which
is the most unique opportunity or challenge we have seen in years.”

Benjamin said COVID-19 brought to light the disparities in America in a stark way unlike what was highlighted in the push for the Affordable Care Act. As people are being “shut down” in their homes as a result of the pandemic, they have no paychecks, no schools, and no childcare. The economy and economics are real, and people see it is not just about race, but also ZIP codes.

“These are the challenges people have been dealing with every day, and now it has been brought to light, and I hope there is empathy, and a better understanding of what is it like to struggle and get by, day to day,” said Benjamin, who currently directs a rural clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala.

Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity in Washington, is inspired by the turn of events in America since the coronavirus was detected in the U.S., because it became clear how interdependent we are to each other’s survival.

“I hope it causes us to recognize that we are an interdependent and interconnect America,” she said. “We have to have the ability to see ourselves in the face of the other. We must develop our capacity to care deeply about each other or this democratic experiment won’t work. We need to rebuild systems of equity.”

The stark divides, Christopher said, are being manipulated to our disadvantage.

“We have to realize that we have to be one country and that we have to call upon our creative capacity to put systems in place that replace the old systems of racial and structural racism and inequities,” she said. “And we have to use this opportunity, because we must rebuild, but rebuild a system of equity and a system of opportunity. But it only happens if we have a sense of our interdependence, and we have it at this moment.”

As America seizes this moment, Garcia said America cannot forget its children, because childhood poverty for Hispanics and Blacks is high.

There is a very deep inequity between 8% White children, 18% Black children and 22% Hispanic children, said Garcia, who is the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy; Director, Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy, at Brandeis University in Boston.

“It is a moment we have to recognize,” she said. ‘We are two Americas sadly, but we have to recognize that half of the children today or minority children, and if we do not address these issues we cannot move forward.”

Where Do We Go From Here? 
A Conversation Ranging from Reporting on Social Justice to Black Lives Matter and Athletes and Activism

Four years ago, when Renee Montgomery was a member of the Minneapolis Lynx of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the star point guard said her team decided to make a statement about the injustices in America.

On the front of their practice jerseys, she said, were the words, “Unity and Change.” On the back were the words, “Black Lives Matter,’ and they also had a police shield on the back so the fans and public would not misconstrue the intent of the campaign.

“It went terrible,” said Montgomery, now a player for the Atlanta Dream, who decided to sit out the season to focus on social justice matters. “People had no idea why we put Black Lives Matter on our shooting shirts. They were confused and hurt that they had to choose between their favorite players and the military, the American flag, and the cops. They said we have families in the military, and we said we have family in the military too, and this was before
Colin Kaepernick.”

Montgomery was one of three panelists at #NABJNAHJ20 who participated in the “Where Do We Go from Here: What’s Our Collective Strategy to Overcome Social Injustice” session powered by TOYOTA. The others were Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and Jericka Duncan, a national correspondent for CBS News. The influencers and activists delved into the journey for social justice and ways journalists can keep the issues in the news and how
consumers can get in the fight.

“This is how you can spot progress and a win, because fast forward and now the league is saying Black Lives Matter,” Montgomery said. “There is a whole initiative based on how we can be diverse, and how can we be inclusive.”

The movement is so strong that the defiant owner of the NFL’s Washington team is now changing its name because it is offensive to Native Indians.

“For the first time, people are listening,” Montgomery said. “People are actually doing action items behind the words, so I am really excited about this movement.”

When the George Floyd tragedy occurred in Minneapolis in May, Duncan had an awkward moment with a White senior producer over a Floyd story. The incident led her to take some time off. During her break, she called her White colleague. It was time to speak truth to power. The conversation was a breakthrough moment for both.

“It became this moment where we could have gone in our silos,” Duncan said. “She could have labeled me one way, and I could have labeled her one way, but things kind of calmed down, and I called her. I did not send an email. … We had a very real conversation, and I remember thinking this is the kind of thing we need to share, because it could have been very easy for me to say I am not dealing with this person unless I absolutely have to, but this the moment
where we have to be very real with each other.”

Morial provided some rich history for attendees, sharing that the developments following the Floyd incident are really an extension of what transpired in 1965 when newly crowned heavyweight champion Cassius Clay protested social conditions in the U.S. and the war. His name change, joining forces with the Nation of Islam and refusal to enter the draft for the military caused a lot of outrage and outcry, but Clay, who became Muhammad Ali, was defiant and persuasive enough to get other famous athletes like NFL star Jim Brown and emerging star Lew Alcindor to support the campaign. Alcindor also changed his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Two years later, after winning gold medals for the U.S during
the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fist in support of the Black Power movement during the medal awards ceremony. They were summarily dismissed from the team, ejected from the athletes’ village, and sent home.

“I don’t want the players to ever surrender their platform,” said Morial, adding they should “always use it smartly and intelligently. I am looking for Colin Kaepernick to be signed. He is a tremendous athlete who took the San Francisco 49ers to the Superbowl.”

Morial stressed that the movement to advance Black people must continue.

“The underlining conditions will take a sustained effort over years,” he warned. “For us to be able to make progress, we have to be patient with the determination and the fortitude for a sustained long effort to undo many of the things that are unjust, unequal and unfair. I hope people can see that down the road there is a better nation, a just and a fair nation, a nation where they eliminated poverty, a nation where everyone has equal opportunity where racism and religious bigotry and hatred are things of the past. We have been working and fighting for so long, we have to celebrate the spirit of the movement and what this means.”

Watch the conversation.

NABJ Leadership Academy: 
How to Breakthrough and Become a News Director/General Manager

How do I position myself early in my career to become a news director or general manager? What assessment tools can help me determine if I’m prepared to lead a news station? In the era of a pandemic and social unrest, how has the playing
field changed for assessing the top news executive? Where did your path to the GM begin?

These were just a few of the questions presented to news directors and general managers who participated in the five-part #NABJNAHJ20 training session: The NABJ Leadership Academy: How to Breakthrough & Become a News Director/General

Michelle Robinson Harper, a graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s radio, TV and motion picture department, got her break as an intern for the Raleigh Durham area ABC affiliate. She wanted to become the next Barbara Walters. As an intern she logged long hours for little pay, working on the assignment desk, as a writer, and as an off-air reporter. After the current management team moved on, she was told by new management to go to a smaller market to get her break in TV. She decided to stay in North Carolina and take the offer to work in the sales department.

“Certainly a path to more money, more time off and a path to management,” said Harper, one of three Black women general managers in the U.S., who added she has held almost every job in sales after more than 35 years in the industry and is now president and General Manager of WHBO, the FOX affiliate in Memphis.

Richard Dyer, the president and general manager of WUSA Channel 9 in Washington, is a graduate of Boston College. He wanted to be a lawyer, but after being exposed to communications his junior year, he switched his major. His first opportunity in TV was an internship at a Boston TV station. He knew then he wanted to become a general manager. Nearly 40 years later, he is at WUSA. This is his fourth time working for the station after departing for executive roles in other cities, including St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Darryl Green, the VP and general manager of WFTX in Fort Myers, FL, is a graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. He started out as an accountant. From there, he became controller for WGCI-FM in Chicago and later general manager of the station. His next move was TV, where he became general manager of a station in Buffalo, then WUSA in Washington. He jumped back to radio for about 10 years and now he is back in television.

Cedric Thomas, the general sales manager for WEWS, the CW station in Cleveland, advised conference attendees to look for a mentor to help them navigate the path to the GM position.

‘’The thing that really helped me was finding someone in those positions who could really help me plot my course, especially if you can find someone on the news side or the sales side, who has worked up in the newsroom,” Thomas said.“ They can tell you what it took to go from a producer to an EP, to the number 2 role, to the news director’s role, and it can help you get to where you want to be.”

As for how the current health and social issues changed the playing field for what news organizations or looking for in top executives, Thomas said, “The one thing I will tell everybody to do is be ready to adapt to change. There is going to be more change during my history in the broadcast industry. You have to be ready for that change now, and, if you look for new ways to work, at the end of the day, it is a business. So, how do you cover the news now in a different way? How do we cover the story on multiple platforms? In the role I am in now, we are listening to everybody. The great ideas will not necessarily come from the general manager’s seat, we are looking for everyone to
provide that input and that allows for more opportunities for everybody.”

For what is needed to develop the next general manager, Lori Waldon, president and general manager KOAT TV Action News in Albuquerque, said she honestly assesses her strengths and weaknesses. The process starts by being open to honest

“I think it is important for you to not live in a vacuum, not to be afraid to ask how I am doing, how I can be better, how I can be stronger,” said Waldon. “Find a really good mentor in the newsroom, in the station no matter where you are in the station. Try to get direct feedback. I think that is important. I also like to assess my strengths. Where are you strong? Build on your strengths. And, at the same time, be honest, pick up the mirror to determine where do you need work. I think good mangers and good leaders are also good team builders in terms of the skills, whether sales, news or engineer, you can be good at the craft, but ultimately you have to be good at learning people.
I think that is really important.”

One Black woman news executive, who rose through the ranks from producer to general manager, said she was frightened after receiving the promotion. Today, she’s one of 16 Black general managers in the nation, a small percentage of
the more than 1,100.

“In the past, you must come up through the sales ranks,” Waldon said. “They know numbers. They know the sales department. They understand revenue. I came up through the news department, and that was my big thing when I first became a general manager. I will be honest that frightened me because I did not know the language. I knew news like the back my hands, but when I got in front of the sales department I was frightened. But I was honest with myself, understanding
where I am strong and why I need the learning.”

The full line up of panelists included:

  • RaMona Clay Alexander, FOX40, Jackson, MS
  • Leon Clark, ABC10, San Diego, CA
  • Ric Harris, NBC10, Philadelphia, PA
  • Brandin Stewart, CBS3, Philadelphia, PA
  • Cedric Thomas, WSOC-TV, Charlotte, NC
  • Lori Waldon, KOAT-TV, Albuquerque, NM
  • Darryl Green, FOX4, Fort Myers, FL
  • Michelle Harper, FOX13, Memphis, TN
  • Richard Dyer, WUSA-TV, Washington, DC
  • D’Artagnan Bebel, FOX26, Houston, TX
  • Joel Vilmenay, WDSU-TV, New Orleans, LA
  • Tod Smith, WWL-TV, New Orleans, LA
  • Ron Walter, WREG-TV, Memphis, TN

In Conversation with Chance the Rapper

Rapper and activist Chance the Rapper said George Floyd’s murder left him feeling “a little bit powerless” as a Black man.

Speaking one-on-one with Dorothy Tucker, President of the National Association of Black Journalists and an investigative reporter for CBS2 in Chicago, Chance, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, shares his thoughts on how the convergence of police brutality, the current racial climate and the global COVID-19 pandemic are affecting African Americans.

“Police brutality isn’t only materialized in murder,” said Chance, who admits to having “crazy experiences” with police including incidents that happened in front of his house.

He also talks about growing up in Chicago and how having positive influences from his father and a good education have not shielded him from certain experiences.

The 27-year-old entertainer, husband and father also discussed what inspires his music and what he sees as positives coming from the pandemic.

View playback of President Tucker’s interview with Chance the Rapper here:

Virtual Convention, Virtual Bootcamps: 
NABJ-NAHJ Student Projects and JSHOP Continue Tradition of Training the next generation

The National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists provide training opportunities for college journalism students through their respective Student Project programs. NABJ also offers high school students an opportunity to learn through its High School Journalism Workshop (JSHOP) program. In both cases, students attend the conventions and report on events in real-time, just as if they were working professional journalists.

The virtual 2020 NABJ-NAHJ Convention thrust student programs into new territory, including conducting webinars that give them access to professional insights and guidance.

“Despite the challenges of suddenly having to plan, create and conduct a student project virtual platform, the students will gain great knowledge of how to be journalists in a world hard hit by a pandemic that limits their travel, newsgathering and disseminating information & facts through creative storytelling for the web & broadcast,” said Steve Jefferson, 2020 Student Projects co-chair and a reporter at WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Twenty-eight students participated in Student Projects, 12 from NAHJ, and 16 from NABJ.

The first of two virtually produced newscasts can be viewed on YouTube. Similar to what every broadcast news operation in America had to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NABJ-NAHJ Student Projects team provided news and information for its target audience amid unprecedented

“NABJ and NAHJ supplied each student with the necessary tools to put together current event stories,” said Jefferson. Also, “the students have participated in online journalism boot camps to learn tricks of the trade from experienced and award-winning veteran journalists,” he added.

Twenty-one professional mentors worked with the students. Six represented NAHJ and 15, including organization co-founder Allison Davis, represented NABJ.

High school students interested in journalism careers also worked during the convention.

The JSHOP provided hands-on challenges to introduce the profession to young multicultural students.

Among the 14 students in the 2020 class was Madison Williams, a Slidell, Louisiana native and Northshore High School Graduate. Williams is enrolled at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi where she will play competitive tennis and study sports journalism on a full four-year scholarship.

As a high school senior, she was an anchor and reporter in the Panther Television Class.

“Throughout the year, I covered sporting events, taking photographic action shots and video interviews of athletes, and I also covered other school functions for broadcasting every other week,” said Williams. “However, I really fell in love with my role as anchor — storytelling in front of the camera,” she added.

Kaleb Anderson, a two-year participant in the Washington Association of Black Journalists Association Urban Journalism Workshop, is in his senior year at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in D.C. He has worked on the staff of his school newspaper but was eager to gain more experience. He feels his WABJ-UJW experience provided him with a solid foundation.

“In this program, I learned about the different styles of media, the importance of the deadline, how to ask good questions and the do’s and don’ts of interviewing,” said Anderson. “It was great to interact with these professionals who shared their wisdom with us,” he added.

Student Projects and JSHOP Links

Check out the digital issue of the NABJ Monitor.

Check out the Monitor for video content.

JSHOP students shared what they learned on the official 2020 JSHOP Facebook page.

Former Region IV Director Terry Collins captured the “joy and surprise” of the JSHOP’s 2020 Russell LaCour Legacy Award winner, Ayomi Wolff

Missed the convention, or need a refresher?

Check out a sample playlist on our YouTube channel. More loading soon.

Task Force Updates

The Political Task Force has several positions open on its board. Members who are interested in political journalism are encouraged to inquire about these opportunities, which
are great resume builders. If you want more information about these positions or would like to apply, please email Task Force Chair Tia Mitchell:

Positions available:


-Publicity Committee Chair

-Training (Programming) Committee Chair

-Membership Committee Chair


Fall Board meeting — Oct. 16–17

NABJ Virtual Regional Conferences — Nov. 21

Virtual awards and 45th Anniversary celebration — Dec. 12

President’s Black Women in Media Series — This Fall


Donate now to the NABJ COVID-19 Relief Fund. Help members affected by the pandemic.

Sign up for the Producer and Editor databases, and

We are working diligently to build our NABJ Editors Database. We want to connect publishers and CEOs with Black editors and senior writers who can move into management positions around the country. Whether they’re offering temporary
or permanent positions, our database should be their first search option.

NABJ has been successful with the Producers Database. We have employment profiles on 147 members and know that several producers have landed jobs simply by being registered in the database. We want to provide the same service to our

Lynn Norment, longtime editor and senior writer at Ebony magazine who currently is a columnist with the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, has agreed to spearhead the database. She can be reached at J. Harold Hayes, a retired broadcaster, is the monitor of the Producers Database.
He can be reached at

If you are a senior writer or editor, the NABJ Editors Database is perfect for you. please sign up.

Looking Back & Celebrating Our 2019 Award Winners

As we prepare to enter our 2020 NABJ awards season and hold our virtual awards event on December 12, it is important that we take a moment to reflect and celebrate the 2019 NABJ honorees for the impact they have made across our industry.
Unexpected shifts for our staff, members, volunteers, newsrooms, and everyone around the world have happened since our last Salute to Excellence and Hall of Fame events, but in a time when celebrating one another is so critical,
our NABJ Journal staff came together to ensure the completion of our annual issue that celebrates our award-winning journalists.

Please take the time to view the beautiful images and stories about each of our 2019 Special Honors and Hall of Fame honorees at the link below. Whether your work was celebrated in 2019 or will be celebrated in 2020, we salute you!
We look forward to celebrating our to be announced 2020 honorees in our upcoming 2021 Journal issue.


Contact for Newsletter or Journal submissions.

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