Five new members were inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame this week, including Johnathan Rodgers, former TV One president and chief executive officer and Gwen Ifill, moderator of WashingtonWeek.
“I learned to listen to people, to listen very carefully to sift out what is good information and what is not,” said Ida B. Wells Award recipient Michael Fields about instances early in his career when he was often the only person of color. He is news director at Atlanta’s WABE 90.1 FM and former southern bureau chief for NPR.
Rodgers told professional journalists and students at the roundtable that understanding economic issues facing the United States will be at the heart of many stories covered for the next decade.
“If you don’t understand the historical and philosophy behind our economic system, you won’t be a good journalist,” Rodgers said.
Pat Harvey, co-anchor of the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. for Los Angeles’s CBS affiliate, encouraged the students to break out of their comfort zones by pursuing positions that are more behind-the-scenes. It’s a good idea, she said, to start in smaller markets where they can master the basics before moving on to larger, more competitive newsrooms.
Ifill, a senior correspondent for the “PBS NewsHour,” said mastering strong writing, curiosity, intelligence, being well read and driven to follow the facts is key to success, regardless of the medium.
“It is so important you always bring yourself to what you do, not just your ambition,” said Ifill, who has worked in print and broadcast.
Maureen Bunyan, anchor for WJLA-TV and chair of the NABJ Hall of Fame Awards, encouraged students, once they’ve earned their first jobs, to find a workplace friend with similar values to help critique their work as they develop.
Jack White, a former colleague and longtime friend the late Wallace Terry, an author and former Time magazine deputy bureau chief, encouraged would-be journalists to develop a thick skin.
White shared how as a student at Brown University, Terry sought an interview with segregationist governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus when Faubus visited Rhode Island. Terry convinced a hotel employee to let him wear his jacket before Terry rode an elevator and approached Faubus’s room.
When asked by one of the governor’s associates, Terry said he represented student press in the nation and wanted to speak to the outspoken politician. The governor granted the interview. The New York Times spotlighted Terry’s experience and The Washington Post offered him a job.“If you do have that kind of audacity, nothing can stop you,” White said.
Inductees told students never to forget where they came from.
“Great sacrifice was made by our people and others for you and I to even have the opportunity to be in this room,” said Ruth Allen Ollison, who helped establish the NBC affiliate news department in Tyler, Texas, and devoted much of her career to radio and television. “To pay it forward, do your best and watch out for somebody else.”
Harvey, Ifill, Ollison, Rodgers and Terry were inducted during a ceremony Thursday night at the Newseum; Fields was also honored during the same gala.
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