I was overwhelmed when the President of the National Association of Black Journalists called to tell me I had been named the 2015 Emerging Journalist. I soon realized that with the honor came responsibility.
Here you can read the speech I gave when presented with the award Saturday August 9th at the Salute to Excellence Gala in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I never imagined I would stand before you to accept this award. I am a true NABJ baby. I participated in 2 short courses back in 2009 and student projects in 2010. The training I received is what has allowed me to report on important stories like the shooting death of Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest in Ferguson. Tomorrow August 9th marks the one year anniversary of Mike Browns death. I dedicate this award to him and his family. It got real in Ferguson. While there I understood that Brown’s mom, Lesley McSppaden, trusted me to tell her story. During our interview- her sons body was still lying in the street. She already knew what happened- Mike had been shot dead by a Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer. I worked and worked. Then my mentors stepped in. I’ll never forget when my NABJ short course mentor Jennifer Wiggins called me over night while I was at work. She said don’t stop. You are doing a great job. Do not stop until they take you off the story. What you didn’t notice is that I was taken off the story. During the grand jury decision my schedule was changed and I was only assigned to stories with no connection to Ferguson. That hurt, and I felt like that never would have happened if I had mangers who shared the perspectives of our 44 nabj founders. 40 years ago, we had members bold in their mission. They believed that black lives mattered. They believed in diversifying media. Its time we take diversity in media to the next level. Its no longer acceptable to consider diversity, only black faces on TV its time we have black leadership in our newsroom. In St. Louis, we covered an entire civil rights movement with no minority executive producers or assistant news directors. Our News directors and General managers are all white. One year later, many of our black newsmakers left for different cities, including me. As the only young black woman in my newsroom, I felt like I had the weight of the entire black community on my back. Sometimes I was the only person in meetings with a black perspective. As a reporter there is only so much you can say. There is only so many decisions that you can make on behalf of the team. That’s why its important for us to fight for more black newsroom managers. Our founders wanted to tell good stories and set higher standards for our industry. That means speaking up for whats right. As an NABJ baby, and emerging journalist…I realize its time that we as younger members take our roles more seriously, That means paying dues, putting in work on a local and national level. We have to give back to each other. Help other journalist in your newsroom no matter the color, because it’s the right thing to do. Lets help each other tell the story that the world deserves to see. I appreciate this award. Thank you all so very much.