Because she believes the black journalist has a special role in the media, Peggy Pinn says she is committed to flooding "every newspaper, radio and TV station in the country" with as many sharp and talented young blacks as possible.
Pinn, continuing education events coordinator at Howard University, tells students that they have a responsibility beyond their personal commitments to themselves; that they must continue to look at the communities from which they came, and remember to "put something back."
"I never, ever discourage a student from trying to do well for himself. But I want them to remember to help young brothers and sisters coming along after them, and to constantly be aware of and sensitive to the way in which the media reports on the minority community."
The reporting of issues which are of particular concern to blacks and other minorities is something which Pinn believes black journalists must watch closely -- and change when necessary. To do that, she says, blacks must have more jobs at decision-making levels. She is determined to groom the current crop of Howard students, whom she fondly calls her "Children," for those jobs.
"One thing that I tell the children," she says with a sigh, "is to be wary of getting locked into doing only 'black' stories. This whole trend of blacks being assigned exclusively to such stories is something that really worries me. I see it everywhere, and I think it's ridiculous . . . We're into the 80s now, and I think that a black guy can go into Afghanistan and cover the situation there as easily as he can go down to the corner and rap with sister Joan about what's happening to her."
At the same time, Pinn says, a paradox exists because the black reporter may be the best, or perhaps the only one who is sensitive enough to cover stories in his own community. It is a conundrum which has no clear answer, she says.
"I just tell the kids to be careful, to use sensitivity and skill in every assignment they get. I want them to know that they're not going to be 'stars' overnight, to accept this, but to keep an eye out all the time for the golden opportunity."
For the past four years, Pinn has devoted herself to producing the annual communications conference at Howard. Though she is an admitted workaholic, this is not what drives the tall, soft-spoken woman to devote endless hours toward making the Howard conference what she calls "THE meeting place for minority communicators in this country."
Media representatives from all over the country come to the Howard event each year to lecture, participate in seminars and panel discussions and, above all, to recruit new talent.
Pinn's soft face grows intent as she explains the importance of this last aspect.
"You see," she says, "it's still true that the black youngster must work twice as hard and be twice as good in order to have a shot at one of the precious few jobs out there. Things have not changed very much from when I was looking for a job in the 40s and 50s . . . We still have to struggle, and we still have to prove ourselves."
Pinn's journalistic background is in broadcasting, where she worked for two of the major commercial television networks, and was assistant to Tony Brown, the executive producer of the popular "Black Journal" program on the Public Broadcasting System. She founded the National Educational Television Training School, whose purpose was to equip minority students with the technical skills necessary to work in the production areas of television and film.
It was her own career, Pinn says, that made her aware of the special role black and other minority journalists must play.
She also worries about young people who think that the black journalist needs no special commitment and has no special struggles.
"There IS still a difference," she says adamantly. "Look, I remember the struggle of the 60s all too well. I was one of those bright young people who had to be a secretary after getting a college education. I know. When I hear them say there's no difference, I get so angry . . . I say we have loads of black people covering the miserable, the downtrodden, but why don't we have anyone covering, say, what Barbara Walters covers? THAT's the difference."
Meanwhile, from her small office on the Howard campus, she continues to work on bridging the gap. She tells the students to do their homework, look sharp, get their feet in the door and to work, work, work. And she keeps reminding them that if they need her, she's there.
Most of the students in the school of communications are well aware of who Peggy Pinn is.
"I love her," said one young man who is studying radio broadcasting. "She's everybody's friend, and everybody's mother."