NEW "BLACK VOICES" UNVEILED TO NABJ MEET
NEW YORK (August 11, 2011) – Last week I attended the 36th National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) Convention and Career Fair in Philadelphia which from all indications was another resounding success.
Each year, I look forward to attending NABJ’s annual convention as it evokes a sense of pride in the accomplishments of African Americans and Caribbean Americans across the field of communications. NABJ get-togethers always bring out the best in participants – whether media specialists, public affairs officers, educators or even politicians.
This year, the buzz was created by Greek American entrepreneur Arianna Huffington who chose the NABJ convention to launch “HuffPost BlackVoices,” which is designed to showcase wide-ranging perspectives on the black experience, similar to the century-old mission of the New York Amsterdam News.
Huffington is best known as co-founder of the popular news website, The Huffington Post, recently acquired by Internet provider AOL in a multi-million dollar deal.
“I often feel that we are living in a split-screen world. And depending on what part of the screen you are looking at, you will have a very different perception of where things stand – it alters everything you think about the present, and dramatically affects your view of the future. And nowhere is this split-screen reality more pronounced than in the African-American community,” Huffington observed.
“On one side, it’s a bleak picture: we see the African-American community besieged by crushing unemployment, rampant foreclosures, widening income and wealth disparity, and a disproportionate number of men in jail …but there is an equally compelling reality on display on the other side of the screen, where we can watch our first black president, our first black attorney general, and the overwhelming influence of the African-American community on fashion, music, sports, and the rest of popular culture.”
Huffington, who is being advised by BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, believes one of the biggest voids in the cultural landscape has been created by the traditional media’s ongoing neglect of the issues most important to black America, and the dearth of black perspectives and voices.
She promised BlackVoices will spotlight the best and brightest black thinkers, writers, and cultural game changers with the goal of making issues important to the black community part of the national conversation.
And in these increasingly tough times, Huffington sees a new value offered by the often overlooked African American perspectives and experience: “We are also seeing a renewed focus on community – and community-based solutions – as people all across the country step up to meet the needs produced by economic hard times.”
As I attended NABJ’s plenary sessions and educational workshops, I could not help but reflect on the quantity of quality professionals, from news reporters and editors to producers, directors and correspondents who are daily making key decisions in the news rooms of America’s A-list media houses.
Yet, sadly, so many Caribbean-based marketers opt not to use the services of Caribbean and African American marketing and communications professionals in the marketplace because of the perceived limitations of the “black rolodex” and other lame excuses for defaulting to old, tired, establishment houses with far more lucrative accounts on their books.
Guess which accounts are shunted aside in these big agencies when the pressure is on and “push comes to shove”?
There is good news: African Americans and Caribbean Americans are making some of the key news decisions at media houses like ABC, CNN and NBC.
Yes, there still aren’t enough of us on air, but, increasingly, our voices are also being heard delivering the news to America’s mainstream and heartlands.
Kudos to NABJ for reminding us of the importance of giving the dream a voice.