We’re back after the NABJ Convention
The Byline staff took a break for the month of August because of the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Miami.
Two AABJ members won Salute to Excellence Awards (more on that later) and the chapter was nominated — but unfortunately did not win — Chapter of the Year.
Below are some pictures from the conference provided by various AABJ members.
Fox 5 anchor Marissa Mitchell wins the Salute to Excellence Award
By Craig Allen Brown
Atlanta native and Fox 5 anchor Marissa Mitchell achieved another significant career milestone on Aug. 10 when she won a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence Award. Mitchell won in the Large Market/Network Radio, Television, Print category for her tribute to soul icon Aretha Franklin.
“When I learned that I won, I was very honored, and I was humbled,” Mitchell said. “I have been nominated for Salute to Excellence Awards before, but I had never won.”
“It was very special,” she continued. “I’ve been a member of NABJ for over a decade now. To have my work recognized by an organization I’ve supported so much was an esteemed honor.”
Equally important to Mitchell was the recognition received for a memorial on the Queen of Soul. Franklin is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest singers. She is also hailed as a civil rights and human rights pioneer. Mitchell states that Franklin was more than just an amazing singer, she was an unparalleled embodiment of African-American artistry and humanity.
“[Franklin] was a symbol of pride for so many communities, particularly the African-American community,” Mitchell said. “To have received the honor for a piece that I felt honored her was particularly special.”
Upon hearing of Franklin’s passing, Mitchell began conceptualizing what would become the award-winning tribute. She contacted artists who knew Franklin well, such as R&B legend Peabo Bryson and singer Avery Sunshine. These entertainers were able to provide context into what made Franklin such a giant in the worlds of soul, R&B and gospel music. Atlanta-based DJ Frank Ski closed the piece by making an intriguing connection between Franklin’s performances for both civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama, as King’s work was certainly influential in Obama becoming the first African-American president.
Mitchell says that the NABJ’s influence on her life and career is “paramount.” She cites the sense of community within the organization as being largely responsible for the success that she has had as a professional journalist.
“NABJ has been my shoulder to lean and cry on throughout the course of my career. This is something I want to be a part of as long as possible.”
Craig Allen Brown is a freelance writer and teacher at Bear Creek Middle School.
AABJ parliamentarian Wilton Jackson wins the Salute to Excellence Award for sports writing
By Breanna Durham
For the second time, Wilton Jackson II has won the Salute to Excellence Award, this time at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Miami.
Jackson, a six-year member of NABJ and two-year member of the Atlanta chapter, was presented with the award on Aug. 10.
Jackson’s story “Jackson State, Alcorn State battle in Soul Bowl for SWAC East Crown” won the best use of multimedia award in the graduate collegiate and digital awards category for online sports reporting. Jackson wrote the story as a freelancer for HBCU GameDay. It looked at the championship game between rivals Jackson State University and Alcorn State University, both historically black universities in Mississippi.
When Jackson was announced as a winner of the award, he admitted he was shocked and quiet, but deep down he was excited. He hadn’t really told anyone he was in the running for the award. Jackson said he hadn’t thought he’d win the award due to hard space he occupied while he was trying to complete his masters at Louisiana State University (LSU).
“Everything that came with that and still trying to do the stories I wanted to, it just happened that that was one of the biggest games in HBCU football … It just meant a lot,” he said. “I’m just grateful and thankful to have won the award.”
In creating a story with context for the battle between the rivals, Jackson went off to gather sources and get closer to his subjects. Jackson said that he went to press conferences and practices, mostly for Jackson State, and spoke to those he knew that attended HBCUs to gather information.
In May, Jackson graduated from LSU and about a month before the convention, he was notified about his NABJ Salute to Excellence nominations.
“I know where I was in my life at that time. It wasn’t the best time in my life because I was frustrated by trying to finish grad school and all the nuances with that, plus trying to do something freelance on the side … That was a great feeling to know somebody read my work,” he said.
Jackson said that he believed that the piece’s combination of feature aspects combined with typical things like stats made the article stand out. Sports reporters at times can get focused on the game alone, Jackson said. He did that when he was younger, but he said that only having the nuts and bolts of things gets boring.
“There’s so many things you can talk about away from the field,” he said. “It’s a culture.You have to include that.”
Another story by Jackson, “Jackson State Vs. Alcorn State: A rivalry for the ages that never gets old,” also made it to the final round, Jackson said.
Jackson won a Salute to Excellence Award for the first time in 2016 for his story, “Tech advances, economy impact trajectory of journalism.” The story covered how technology and the economy was changing the way news was being produced at the time. Jackson said he was a finalist for the Salute to Excellence Award in 2017 as well.
The award is the only U.S. event exclusively honoring exemplary coverage of African and African-American people or issues, according to an NABJ news release. The award showcases stories across a variety of media platforms, having 20 main categories and 120 subcategories.
Breanna Durham is a free lance writer.
AABJ grant winner Amani Patterson explains how the convention changed her life
By Amani Patterson
Some say that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, but many journalists would say it’s actually the annual National Association of Black Journalists convention. Being a part of the NABJ has honestly changed my life. This is the place where your dreams could potentially come true. Thousands come to the ever-changing convention site every year with hopes of networking with the right people and possibly even making life-long friends in the industry. This is also an opportunity to get away from the emotional stress the industry brings and just have fun.
Even though this seems like one big family reunion every year, it can be quite overwhelming. This was my second year attending, but the first year after graduating college. Nothing will humble you more than walking into that career fair. I came with my brand-new portfolio, freshly printed resumes, and brand-new outfit. I was determined to dominate the career fair and leave by the end of the week with my first job out of college.
I quickly realized how nervous I was! As a result, I might have self-sabotaged myself just a tiny bit. I found myself downplaying my talents instead of showing recruiters exactly what kind of journalist I am. If I could change anything about my career fair experience, I definitely would have gone in with more confidence. Even though I did not walk away with a job, I definitely networked and made connections with people who work for companies I admire, and of course get my first professional headshot courtesy of Scripps. So in the end, I still consider it a win! Even though this was a trial and error, I now know how to “come correct” next year at the 2020 NABJ Convention in Washington D.C.
Having fellowship with everyone was my favorite part of the entire experience. I was able to talk with people who had the similar experience and those who were veterans in the industry. I will say that it was kind of weird to be around people that I watch on television. Whether it was at the Tamron Hall luncheon, eating lunch at a table across from Kevin Fraizer, and even taking a picture with Ne-Yo!
I love being a part of something that shows black people in such a great light. We all have faced racism in our lives and have felt like we could not be our full selves. For a week I was able to be unapologetically black and feel comfortable.The convention is not only just business, but at night people were able to let loose and dance all their stresses away. I loved being able to have fun and know that we were all there to have a good time with each other. The mass shootings that happened the week before did make a lot of people in the world uneasy, especially journalists. I personally know a couple of people who decided to skip the convention because of that. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to come together, but more importantly be there for each other. This convention shows how important our work is and that we must continue to report on the things that matter, including tragedies.
Thank you to the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists for believing that I would benefit from receiving their financial assistance grant. Like many of us fresh out of college, it would have been a challenge to scramble the money together to make it to the convention. Knowing that I have a community – both regionally and nationally – that supports me is so comforting. I hope one day I can in return help a student make it to the convention.
Amani Patterson is a recent graduate of Georgia State University.
AABJ grant winner Markayla Brooks wants to take the sports industry by storm
By Markayla Brooks
I can honestly say the National Association of Black Journalists convention changed my life. I am a senior at Clark Atlanta University (CAU) majoring in mass media arts. Prior to the convention I was messaging peers and professionals trying to understand the environment I was about to be immersed in for four days. Everyone spoke highly of the convention and I was excited to get to Aventura, Florida, and network.
It was refreshing to be in a space with people who have similar goals because everyone seemed genuine and eager to offer tips and help in any way.
The workshop I enjoyed the most was “Shooting Your Shot Masterclass” put on by Bleacher Report and Turner Sports. During the workshop there were mini panels about all the careers paths in sports media. My goal is to be in sports media so I really soaked in all the information. Many of the panelists discussed how they started in one place and transitioned to another as they found their passion within the sports realm.
The career fair was overwhelming but exhilarating. I had never been in a space where most of the booths were for me and my career path. There were so many people, so you had to think hard about how to make yourself stand out and ask the right questions. I was always eager to leave my resume and business card with everyone that I spoke with and ask for their business card. Building genuine connections and growing my network was a large goal of mine when I came to the conference. I also appreciate all of the hard work that was put into the career fair. I know for a fact that had it not been for this conference, I would not have gotten an opportunity to speak with some of these companies.
Next year I will do a few things differently, but I am very grateful I was able to attend this amazing conference and see it while I am still a student. While in line for the Sports Task Force party a gentleman shared how happy he was to see me at the conference and how proactive I was because he did not attend his first national NABJ conference until he was in graduate school. My goal in coming to the conference was to build by network and gain self-confidence and get that feeling after the conference that I am ready to go out and take the sports industry by storm.
Markayla Brooks is a senior at Clark Atlanta University.
AABJ extends its condolences to the Edwards family and friends
NABJ and AABJ both extend their condolences, prayers and thoughts to the family, friends and colleagues of Marsha Edwards, Christopher Edwards II and Erin Edwards. Marsha, Christopher and Erin were NABJ members from the Atlanta area. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported their deaths in August. The story is available here.
AABJ Online Fundraiser: 43 Years Campaign
AABJ’s $43 for 43 fundraising campaign is still ongoing. In its 43rd year, we are asking members to donate $43 to go towards programming, scholarships, and events throughout the year. Be sure to invite your friends, coworkers and anyone you know that supports our members in print, communications, public relations, radio, broadcast, digital and the many trailblazers in the literary world. Be sure to share our campaign on your social media by using the hashtag #AABJ43.
You can donate here.
This edition of The Byline was edited by Amir Vera