Thousands of Black media professionals came from across the nation to Philadelphia for the 36th annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair Aug. 3-7. The theme for this year’s convention was “The Power of Now: Claiming Your Destiny.”
The City of Brotherly Love rolled out the red carpet for this year’s convention, which saw a turnout of over 2,500 Black media professionals from the realms of TV, radio, print and online. Public relations professionals, students and educators also attended the five-day convention held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“Many of our members have been forced to reinvent themselves in the face of cutbacks and layoffs,” said former NABJ President Kathy Times. “Without fail, NABJ remains committed to the interests of our members in the fight to keep diversity an impactful doctrine and business imperative at news organizations across the country.”
Convention-goers were treated to an array of workshops and seminars that specifically catered to the rise of digital media, along with sessions on professional development.
At the opening ceremony for the convention on Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed NABJ on the important role Blacks play in journalism. The editor in chief and publisher of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, also spoke to the organization at the ceremony.
Hundreds of convention attendees looking for positions in media attended the convention’s annual job fair. Dozens of companies, including NBC Universal, Time Warner and the African American News and Information Consortium, spoke with prospective candidates for media positions.
“We were motivated by the discouraging statistics reported this spring by the American Society of Newspaper Editors,” said convention chair Rod Hicks. “The percentage of African-American, Asian, Latino and Native American journalists working in U.S. newsrooms has declined for the third consecutive year.”
Along with getting information on professional growth, journalists were also treated to special programming, including a screening of the highly acclaimed film “The Help,” which takes a look at Black maids in the South during the civil rights era.
Controversy also swirled at the convention with the no-show of the Rev. Al Sharpton on a panel moderated by Roland Martin. Sharpton was quoted in reports as saying that he didn’t go to the event because of criticisms from Black journalists regarding his new role as the host of a show slated to air on MSNBC.
During the convention, NABJ members also elected Gregory Lee of the Boston Globe to be NABJ’s 19th president. Lee previously served as the organization’s treasurer and will become the organization’s youngest president.
“It is both a privilege and an honor to have been elected to lead NABJ, and I stand ready to continue to serve. There is a lot of work to be done,” Lee said. “I’m so very honored and humbled by this awesome responsibility that I have.”
According to Philadelphia Association of Black Journalist President Sarah Glover, the NABJ convention had a $4 million impact on the city. Next year’s convention will be held in New Orleans.