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  • Writer's pictureRhoda Akua Ameyaa

Essay: Why We Need Black Journalists and Reporters


2020 “Journalist of the Year” Yamiche Alcindor by The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)

We need Black everything: journalists, doctors, lawyers, chefs, musicians, teachers, architects, everything! We need Black people in every profession for representation, rewriting history, and changing the narrative that far too often excludes or misrepresents Blackness. The work of every Black person in a predominantly white field is layered with burdens of racial representation and breaking stereotypes. This essay gives reasons why we need Black journalists in these times. In addition to the burdens that Black people in predominantly white fields carry, Black journalists also bear the weight of Black Histories on their shoulders. Mass media (and themselves) subconsciously expect them to rewrite these histories or provide a different viewpoint. In light of these burdensome expectations we have of Black people in the spotlight, we cannot blame people if they shun away from these kinds of jobs, but the truth of the matter is we NEED Black people. We need black journalists! Why? Because they at least have the chance to unravel hidden histories and bring awareness to issues that are shoved in the corner.

Photo by Jorge Maya on Unsplash

The work of the Black journalist is not an easy one. As already established, they are informally tasked with the responsibility of residing with historical burden and witnessing the same narrative of history that has thrived over the years replay and unfold. When Glamour asked about eighteen black journalists what their experiences have been, many remarked that their experiences had been a repetition of frustrating occurrences. For example, Abby Phillip (CNN political correspondent covering the 2020 presidential election) noted that her work as a journalist includes evolving and knowing the limit to which her power can go. In her own words, Abby Phillip notes: “ It is self-evident that policing in America, for example, has disproportionately targeted Black people. When I go on air, it’s not about convincing people that that is a real thing. It’s not my responsibility to hold the hand of people who are willfully ignoring reality and pull them toward something obvious. That’s not what I have to do as a reporter. It is about telling people, “This is a real thing, and if you choose not to acknowledge it, you’re going to have a hard time understanding what’s happening in this country right now.” We need black journalists to write and represent reality because, in most cases, they have lived the reality of Blackness.

Via https://www.vox.com/

According to the preamble of the National Association of Black Journalists, another reason we need the Black journalist is to have an individual that portrays the voices of the African-American people and the Afrodiaspora. Of course, as Black people, there are chances that they will be sidelined even in their field of expertise, but the Black journalist is one of the few people we can trust to present an unfiltered realism. Given that race has become the center of the News and Media, it will not reflect the reality if newsrooms continue to be run by white leaders whose experiences are vastly different from the occurrences the news captures. Aside from their personal experiences, racial reliability attracts readers and listeners to the newsroom topics. In an interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro in July 2020, Dorothy Tucker (president of the National Association of Black Journalists) remarked, “it’s humanly impossible, you know, to be objective. You bring to the table who you are. But as a (Black) journalist, you are fair, and you are accurate, and you are balanced. And that is the job that we have, and that is the job that we do. You want journalists who are — who come to the table with who they are. You know you want journalists who have varied experiences. Otherwise, you might as well, you know, have a robot cover a story.” Without the Black journalist, even stories surrounding Black lives will have a monotone, which is why we need the Black journalist not only in the newsroom but also out covering and capturing stories.

(From left to right): PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, AURN’s White House Correspondent DC Bureau Chief April Ryan, and CNN White House Correspondent Abby Phillip (via https://www.oldwestburycatalyst.org/)

We need the Black Journalist to be there to ask tough questions and dig beyond the surface. In times where there is the likelihood to overwrite, dilute or dismiss realism in the newsroom and beyond, we need a divest group of journalists to stand up and question the choices the leaders make. The Black (and other POC) journalists are needed to keep up with the pace of an ever-changing audience and increase situations’ imperativeness. Looking back to journalists like the investigative reporter and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells and several other Black journalists, we need Black journalists to decipher and produce truthful versions of stories that the News and Media usually brush over.

via https://www.careergirls.org/

There is something impactful about writing and reporting on one’s truth. We need Black journalists because their voices give a name to the African American experience that no other but Black people can vividly define. It is undoubtful that Black journalists suffer as they write and report on stories that sometimes affect them personally. This is why we do not only have to need them but protect them as well! Their voices are critical in these times of adverse changes, so we as people must protect and project them into the spotlight for their works to be seen and heard.

We must not pay attention to only popular Black journalists; we must also give an audience to the Black journalists who report or write for small newsrooms, the Black journalists who just started, and every other Black journalist or reporter! Newsrooms must ensure that their black employees are protected from workplace discrimination, racism, etc. Employers of Black journalists must put their money where their mouth is and put in place policies that ensure that Black journalists are given the treatment they deserve and that their stories are not dismissed or overlooked. Above all, newsroom leaders or editors must ensure that they do not rewrite or over-edit the stories of Black journalists to suit only their white audience.

Read more:

  1. https://knightfoundation.org/articles/the-racial-divide-on-news-coverage-and-why-representation-matters/

  2. https://nabjonline.org/


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