By Bobby Batyko
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is back at Kent State and quickly gaining new ground.
NABJ Kent is an organization of journalists, students and media professionals that encourages students of color to work in student media. NABJ membership is open to all JMC students and majors, and to all Kent State students who are interested in student media. Kent’s chapter was originally established at JMC by the late Evonne Whitmore, Ph.D., but went inactive in 2009.
NABJ is the nation’s largest organization of journalists of color, with more than 3,000 members. NABJ awards nearly $100,000 in scholarships and internships each year to college and high school students nationwide, as well as fellowships for seasoned professionals.
JMC Associate Professor Gene Shelton, NABJ Kent faculty advisor and JMC’s diversity and globalization coordinator, said that participating in the organization offers an essential learning opportunity for students interested in media careers.
“It’s frustrating to see students major in journalism and mass communication but not take advantage of student media opportunities. Too often, students of color tell me they don’t work for the Stater because they don’t feel welcome,” he said. “These four years should be spent preparing yourself to work in media one day. Why would you wait until you graduate?”
NABJ provides workshops, networking and assistance for students who may have difficulty getting involved.
Alyssa Flynn, a junior journalism major and president of NABJ Kent, said the association opens doors for students looking to participate. “NABJ offers opportunities for young journalists of color and a place to make connections before entering the field.”
“I want to create a sense of unity for black journalists on campus and for those who have an interest in the media, no matter who they are,” Flynn said. “I want students to know about scholarships and internships, specifically for black journalists.” Flynn emphasizes that it’s also about developing relationships across the nation. “I want them to create connections with other NABJ members, as well.”
NABJ Kent currently has 15 members, and there is potential for expansion. “We’re off to a great start,” Shelton said. “There’s a lot of support out there for the group.”
Shelton said one reason for the group’s early success is Lori Cantor, the manager of Student Media. “She’s gone above and beyond to help our organization,” he said. Cantor helped organize the “Welcome Back, NABJ” re-launch reception at the start of fall semester, to introduce Student Media to students who want to get involved. Student Media hosted its first “Job and Involvement Fair” at Oscar Ritchie Hall in November. Representatives from Student Media organizations spoke with students and accepted job applications for spring 2014.
“A strong NABJ chapter on campus will help to increase minority student involvement in Student Media, which will benefit both the students and this organization,” Cantor said.
While NABJ can certainly help, it is also important for student media organizations to expand diversity by reaching out to diverse communities through a concerted and organized effort. “It’s easy to be indifferent. But diversity isn’t going to happen unless you make it happen,” Shelton said. “You have to want to be a school that is diverse in its student body and staff. A big step in the right direction is that student media leaders are now going out and recruiting a diverse staff.”
Students interested in learning more about NABJ Kent should contact Cantor at email@example.com.
Caption: NABJ officers and members include (seated, from left): Breanna Avant (junior, journalism major), secretary; Alyssa Flynn (junior, journalism major), president; Kara Taylor (sophomore, journalism major), social media coordinator; (standing, from left): Krandall Brantley (junior, journalism major), vice president; Sa-Diyah Black (sophomore, electronic media major), media relations; Braylon Lee (freshman, journalism), member and Professor Eugene Shelton, faculty advisor. (Missing from the photo is NABJ Kent treasurer, Ray Strickland, a sophomore journalism major.)
Photo credit: Leah Klafczynski