This year, I attended the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) annual convention in Boston, MA. While there, I worked on NABJ’s Student Multimedia Projects. This one week fellowship is an all-expense paid, newsroom crash course experience. During this time, I helped produce, The Monitor, the daily publication that covers the NABJ convention. As a team member on the graphics desk, I helped design the graphics and layout for the paper.
In the course of a week, I learned more about layout and design then I could ever learn in a semester–long course. The best part was having the opportunity to work along side established professionals like Ken McFarlin, Art Director at the New York Times.
As I reflect on this year’s experience at NABJ, I realize how blessed I am to have had this experience. As a young black professional attempting to navigate a white-dominated media industry, it is refreshing to produce a newspaper that covers news from a black perspective. It is empowering to see a publication reporting on news that affects the black community and features black people running an organization and convening to perfect their craft.
NABJ has truly been inspirational to me, so I was curious to see how it has affected others. Here’s what some NABJ members at the conference had to say when asked “Why NABJ?”
Teniko Hassell (Student)
“NABJ represents a progression of black intellectuals in the Journalism field.”
Hassell, who recently graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, worked on the Student Multimedia Projects graphics desk with me. This year was his first NABJ convention. Hassell said he was impressed by the amount of resources provided to the Student Multimedia Projects team.
“NABJ spared no expense to take care of its students,” Hassell said, referring to the all expense paid convention trip the student projects staff members received, the 40 plus computers that decked out the newsroom, and our personal Apple IT team that was available during business hours.
“I see NABJ as a union that allows the collective voice of black journalists to be heard.”
McFarlin, who is currently the Art Director for the New York Times, was the Student Multimedia Projects leader for the graphic design desk. He has been a part of NABJ for more than 30 years. When asked to recall his first NABJ experience, McFarlin said he was amazed and impressed by the sheer number of black journalists who attended the convention and the quality of the workshops.
“NABJ is the one organization in this country that brings together all black journalists.”
Alston, a raising junior at UNC Chapel Hill and first time convention attendee, said after hearing her peers in Carolina Association of Black Journalists (CABJ) talk about how life changing the NABJ convention is, she had to see what the hype was about. Once she attended the NABJ convention, she quickly found out.
“I feel like I’m at a family reunion with all my distant cousins from all over the country.” Alston said.
“NABJ has offered me opportunities to develop professionally. Without NABJ, I wouldn’t be doing the things that I do today nowhere near as confidently.”
This year, NABJ awarded Harper “Student Journalist of the Year.” She is an alumna of UNC Chapel Hill and Columbia University. Harper is currently a reporter at WCTI, an ABC affiliate in Greenville, NC.
Sheldon Sneed (NABJ Career Fair Recruiter)
“I wanted to see others like myself in the industry…I am always looking to see myself in whatever I do, particulary my work.”
Sneed was a recruiter working a booth at the NABJ career fair and has been a NABJ member since 1996.
From my own experience with NABJ and from speaking with the people interviewed above, I’ve come to realize just how powerful NABJ is. It has been integral in helping black journalists develop professionally and in tapping into a vast network of other black professionals. Not only has NABJ helped individuals, but it has also provided a collective voice that demands more diversity in newsrooms. This voice has also been used to speak out on issues affecting the black community. As I navigate the media industry, I’ve learned that a minority groups’ ability to create a voice goes a long way in disrupting the status quo.