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Workshops, awards highlight Black Journalists regional conference in Birmingham

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Hundreds of professional and student journalists were in Birmingham Friday and Saturday for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Region III Conference, “Code Switching: Reporting the Virtual Truth” at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.

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By Erica Wright

Hundreds of professional and student journalists were in Birmingham Friday and Saturday for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Region III Conference, “Code Switching: Reporting the Virtual Truth” at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.

The conference included workshops focusing on digital skills as well as seminars on creating stronger news pieces, avoiding reporting mistakes and employing the latest tools of the trade. There was also a Watchdog Workshop hosted by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

Local journalist Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, of public radio WBHM 90.3-FM, and journalist Ervin Hester, who passed in October of 2018, and was the first black TV news anchor in the Southeast while working in Durham, North Carolina were recognized with the Region III Achievers Awards.

“I must say, I am honored, I am humbled by this award, I love BABJ (Birmingham Association of Black Journalists) and NABJ,” Stewart said. “ . . . I’ve been in journalism for a while now and I can say that a lot of what I’ve done has been because of the very strong support I have from my family… I’ve also had some fantastic NABJ friends and mentors, so many people who are always just there for me… thank you all so much for everything.”

Hester was the first black TV news anchor in the Southeast and began anchoring at ABC 11 WTVD in Durham in the early ‘70s. He anchored the weekend news and earned the nickname “Primetime” and retired from WTVD in 1996. His granddaughter accepted the award on his behalf.

Steve Crocker, WBRC-TV evening news anchor and BABJ President, said he was happy to see so many journalists visit Birmingham.

“I think we’ve had a really dynamic couple of days. I’m grateful to . . . NABJ national leadership for choosing to come to Birmingham and I’m happy to see so many aspiring journalists come to the city to network and improve their skills.”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

Activism

EDITORIAL: Don’t Let Politicians Decide the Future of Journalism – Why We Oppose SB 911

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

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As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.
As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

By Regina Brown Wilson and Sandy Close

What could go wrong when politicians in Sacramento decide the future of  journalism?

The California Legislature could soon provide the answer. SB 911 — authored by Senator Steve Glazer – is the subject of a debate on how $25 million in state surplus funds should be distributed to local and ethnic journalism. If it is passed, we believe the bill would drive a stake in the heart of the independent ethnic media sector.

Ethnic media takes pride in being rooted in their communities and sounding an independent advocacy voice — accountable to the communities ​they serve. Back in 1827 the mission statement of Freedom Journal was proudly this: “We wish to plead our own cause, too long have others spoken for us.”

As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

In fact, for many decades, most ethnic media have operated as for-profit businesses. You can see on ​the mastheads — Sentinel, Voice, Guardian, Crusader — the call to our communities. Mainstream media has often disparaged ethnic media ​as advocacy media,​without understanding the unique role we play for our readers.

SB 911 is promoting a “nonprofit” model that would expressly forbid ethnic media from endorsing political candidates or lobbying for or against proposed legislation. It would silence ​them!

SB 911 establishes a board of political appointees to administer state money that would be costly and time consuming to set up and would wind up determining the criteria for how government doles out support for local journalism for years to come. Ethnic media might have two representatives on that board. But the majority on the pane​l would have no direct knowledge of the unique role of ethnic media or how ​they work. The last thing ethnic media needs are people with little experience in their communities determining what kind of media those communities need.

This scheme puts ethnic media in a competition to gain the approval of a board of political appointees. ​They would end up dependent on this board. In fact, ​they would end up dependent on grants or government agencies instead of local communities that have long supported ​them.

As currently written, the bill would allow media startups – including many in the nonprofit space – that have operated for only one or two years to qualify for support. This language fails to acknowledge the contributions made by established media that have worked for decades to serve their communities and sustain themselves.

SB 911 shines a spotlight on the dire straits many ethnic media find themselves in, especially following the business shutdowns from the pandemic, inflation, and a possible recession, let alone the demands of adapting to the digital world. But we’re not prepared to greenlight the bill as currently written for the sake of whatever share of the $25 million the board bestows to individual outlets after their own admin costs are met.

We urge the Legislature to consider far more productive ways of supporting the ethnic news sector much as it did with efforts promoting the 2020 Census when it increased the advertising dollars earmarked for ethnic media from $15 million to over $85 million, recognizing that only ethnic media could deliver truly inclusive outreach to the diverse communities that now make up the state.

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

The non-profit model works well only for a small number of ethnic media news agencies; they are convenors and informers of community, they fit the category of mission-driven journalism, we applaud them for their work.

But one size does not fit all media, especially given the diversity of ethnic news outlets. Don’t ask ethnic media to transform ​themselves into a model that reduces ​their interdependence with community. “Too long have others spoken for us.” That’s what SB 911 does and why we must oppose it.

About the Authors

Regina Brown Wilson is executive director of California Black Media, the oldest advocacy organization supporting locally-owned Black media.

Sandy Close is director of Ethnic Media Services and former executive director of New America Media/Pacific News Service.

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Activism

‘Birding While Black’ Incident in N.Y.’s Central Park Brings Black Bird Wildlife Enthusiasts Out of Shadows

“For far too long, Black people in the United States have been shown that outdoor exploration activities are not for us,” Corina Newsome, who studies Seaside Sparrows, said in a video posted on Twitter. “Whether it be the way the media chooses to present who is the ‘outdoorsy’ type, or the racism Black people experience when we do explore the outdoors, as we saw recently in Central Park. Well, we’ve decided to change that narrative.”

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The organizers of Black Birders Week 2021. Photos from top, column 1: Georgia Silvera Seamans; Kellie Quiñones; Chris Cooper. 2: Ronnie Almonte; Deja Perkins; Ela-Sita Carpenter; Chelsea Connor. 3: Danielle Belleny; Tyler Jones; Yesenia Arroyo. 4: Earyn McGee; Akilah Lewis; Dara Wilson; Brianna Amingwa. 5: Sheridan Alford; Joseph Saunders. 6: Ayanna Browne; Rhamier Shaka Balagoon; Nicole Jackson
The organizers of Black Birders Week 2021. Photos from top, column 1: Georgia Silvera Seamans; Kellie Quiñones; Chris Cooper. 2: Ronnie Almonte; Deja Perkins; Ela-Sita Carpenter; Chelsea Connor. 3: Danielle Belleny; Tyler Jones; Yesenia Arroyo. 4: Earyn McGee; Akilah Lewis; Dara Wilson; Brianna Amingwa. 5: Sheridan Alford; Joseph Saunders. 6: Ayanna Browne; Rhamier Shaka Balagoon; Nicole Jackson

By Tamara Shiloh

Birdwatching is the observation of live birds in their natural habitat.

It’s a popular pastime and scientific sport developed almost entirely in the 20th century and made possible largely by the development of optical aids, particularly binoculars, which enabled people to see and study wild birds, without harming them, according to Britannica.

Many typically think of birding as a homogenous hobby, thus hearing the word “birdwatcher” rarely evokes images of Blacks enjoying the outdoors.

“For far too long, Black people in the United States have been shown that outdoor exploration activities are not for us,” Corina Newsome, who studies Seaside Sparrows, said in a video posted on Twitter. “Whether it be the way the media chooses to present who is the ‘outdoorsy’ type, or the racism Black people experience when we do explore the outdoors, as we saw recently in Central Park. Well, we’ve decided to change that narrative.”

In 2020, Newsome, along with a group of Black birders comprised of scientists, nature lovers, and friends came together to organize the first annual Black Birders Week, a social media celebration hosted by the Black AF In STEM Collective.

The birders group served as a springboard to shape a more diverse future for birding, conservation, and the natural sciences.

The third annual Black Birders Week ran from May 29-June 4 this year, according to https://www.blackafinstem.com, with the theme ‘Soaring to Greater Heights.”

Goals set for the Black Birders Week and the Twitter group are to:

  • Counter the narrative that outdoors is not the place for Black people;
  • Educate the birding and broader outdoor-loving community about the challenges Black birders specifically face; and
  • Encourage increased diversity in birding and conservation.

According to Newsome, Black birders encounter “overt hatred and racism in the field and are too often the only Black person, or person of color, in a group of bird or nature enthusiasts.”

Its formation came on the heels of the May 25, 2020, incident in New York City’s Central Park when Amy Cooper, later dubbed “Central Park Karen,” claimed she exhausted “all options” before she called 911 on Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black birdwatcher.

Christian Cooper has been an avid birdwatcher since age 10 and will soon host his own show, “Extraordinary Birder,” on National Geographic, according to NPR. He will take viewers into the “wild, wonderful and unpredictable world of birds.”

Cooper told the New York Times that he loves “spreading the gospel of birding. [I’m looking forward to encouraging people] to stop and watch and listen and really start appreciating the absolutely spectacular creatures that we have among us.”

Black Birders Week co-organizer Earyn McGee conducts research near the US-Mexico border. Her concern is encountering U.S. Border Patrol officers while searching for lizards.

“We all have this shared experience where we have to worry about going into the field,” McGee said. “Prejudice might drive police or private property owners to be suspicious of or antagonistic toward Black scientists doing field work in normal clothes, putting them in danger.”

To learn more about the study of birding, read John C. Robinson’s “Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers.”

Image: https://www.birds.cornell.edu/landtrust/black-birders-week/

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Black History

Eight Black Media Outlets Win Over $5 Million in Grants

The six Black-owned media organizations targeting predominantly Black audiences that received grants are: California Black Media ($400,000); The Black Voice News in Riverside County ($100,000); L.A. Focus ($96,000) in Los Angeles County; Pace News in Los Angeles County ($95,150); The Precinct Reporter in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties ($88,000); The San Francisco Bay View ($85,000); The Sac Cultural Hub in Sacramento County ($80,000); and Indian Voices in San Diego County ($59,741).

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Several supporters and news publications said they are pleased with the intention of the program and support the scaling up of it over the next few years.
Several supporters and news publications said they are pleased with the intention of the program and support the scaling up of it over the next few years.

By California Black Media Staff

Eight Black-owned media organizations serving African American audiences across California are among 46 ethnic media news outlets awarded over $5 million in grants by the state.

The grant program is a collaboration between the California State Library and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. It was created to support media outlets serving communities where hate crimes are likely to happen.

The funding will also help raise awareness about a related program: the Stop the Hate campaign that the California Department of Social Services has been spearheading with an initial investment of $20 million over the last year.

The campaign funds community-based organizations working to reduce hate crimes and promote intercultural and interracial cooperation and understanding.

“Crimes targeting victims because of their race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender or a disability have no place in the state of California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The six Black-owned media organizations targeting predominantly Black audiences that received grants are: California Black Media ($400,000); The Black Voice News in Riverside County ($100,000); L.A. Focus ($96,000) in Los Angeles County; Pace News in Los Angeles County ($95,150); The Precinct Reporter in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange counties ($88,000); The San Francisco Bay View ($85,000); The Sac Cultural Hub in Sacramento County ($80,000); and Indian Voices in San Diego County ($59,741).

According to the California State Library the grants will allow ethnic media outlets to hire or contract with “specialized reporters, fellowships, and internships at ethnic media outlets, news briefings and roundtables, digital and social media content, community gatherings and partnerships with grassroots organizations and Community Based Organizations.”

“We live in the state with the most racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in the United States. Yet, the deep tensions and misconceptions among us can trigger violence and rip our communities apart,” said Regina Brown Wilson, executive director of California Black Media (CBM).

“This funding is necessary because it equips media organizations with resources we need to educate, inform and connect the communities we serve, encouraging honest conversations, which are believe are opportunities to teach each other and learn from each other,” Wilson continued.

The grant program is a part of the Asian and Pacific Islander Equity Budget, a three-year investment of $166.5 million allocated to address the sharp increase in hate incidents.

“The California Asian American & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus (API Caucus) and I pushed for these funds to help strengthen California’s more than 350 ethnic media outlets,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). “We’re looking forward to subsequent grant awards being even more helpful to more ethnic media outlets around the state.”

Joe Bowers, a Los Angeles County-based researcher, will be working on identifying multicultural communities vulnerable to hate crimes that Black-owned newspapers in the state serve. He says he looks forward to providing data that will be key to helping CBM’s partner publications target their audiences with information that elevates and promotes interracial and cross-cultural relationships in their communities.

“There have been a number of demographic shifts in the state. It is critical for media to understand who their audiences are, where those people live, who they live next to, and what the potential challenges and opportunities may be,” Bowers continued.

Several supporters and news publications said they are pleased with the intention of the program and support the scaling up of it over the next few years.

Most publications are expected to kick off their programs over the next month.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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