NEW YORK (Aug. 11, 2011)-Last week, I attended the 36th annual National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) convention and career fair in Philadelphia, which by 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 they are 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 the Huffington Post’s “BlackVoices,” 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 the co-founder of the popular news website the Huffington Post, recently acquired by Internet provider AOL in a multimillion-dollar deal.
“I often feel that we are living in a split-screen world. 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 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.
In these increasingly tough times, Huffington sees a new value offered by the often overlooked African-American perspective 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 making key decisions daily in the newsrooms 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 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.