Open Letter to the National Association of Black Journalists

A recent exchange of comments on the National Association of Black Journalists listserv about the quality of The Black Press provoked me to offer this response, which I now share here.

One Black editor wrote: “…clips from those who worked in black newspapers were often but not always of lower quality. I understand that many of those papers didn’t have the resources but many stories were simply poorly written, full of holes, one-sided or littered with typos…”

In the opinion of another NABJ member: “…The production problems (of) most black-owned newspapers endured. They did not own their presses, so they often leased time from others. This often led to hasty work as clocks ticked [and bills rang up]. Tragic errors and haphazard design followed….” Ahem.

My edited response: “I really must take umbrage at the idea that a well edited, error free Black newspaper is some sort of anomaly, or some dinosaur to be studied only in some museum after it’s long dead.

“Again, I point you to The Washington Informer. Look at it online, for crying out loud. Every week, on time and virtually typo-free, on a “leased press.” And it is not the only one. I also write for The Final Call. I have edited it. I edited its predecessor, Muhammad Speaks IN THE 1970s! Look at The Final Call online. I would not be able to stand among the Men who sell that newspaper every day, door-to-door and on street corners and look them in their eyes if someone in this group or anyone else could pick up ANY copy of that paper and pick it apart finding typos and errors of fact. One of the FC’s reporters and the editor-in-chief were both fired several years ago when a story in the paper was found to be factually unsubstantiated. So, no! It’s not like that, and you of all people should know better.

“We scrupulously proofread our product at Muhammad Speaks and the same is true today of the Final Call. We would not let a product go to the street with The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s name on it with errors in it. Now, The Final Call almost takes that tradition for granted, ever since its debut in 1979. It’s not rocket science. That’s just what professional journalists do, regardless of our platforms. Such excellence is common across the Black Press spectrum. At Muhammad Speaks we owned our own press and for five years we put a quality product on the street, every single week, on time!

“Several times I have been a judge of the annual National Newspaper Publishers Assocciation–The BlackPress of America–Excellence Awards (I was also twice a judge of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards) and routinely have seen high quality entries in each of the NNPA’s 17 categories.

“Raymond Boone, editor of The Richmond Free Press was a Pulitzer judge (and is now possibly even a Pulitzer Board member), whose paper is one of the finest weeklies in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

“You insult the work of the high quality Black newspapers in dozens of cities when you suggest that the only militant, remarkably well edited Black paper is now 16 years dead. Look, for example at the NNPA prize winners going back over the years, excellence abounds!

“So please, don’t sell The Black Press short! The ice is just as cold in Black-owned and edited newspapers as it is in White, corporate-owned papers. Period. Ice is ice. Water freezes at 32 degrees on the Southside, just like it does on the Northside. And for any professor at an HBCU to even entertain any other notion is delusional. Do you think recruiters consider students coming out of anywhere in the DMV–Howard in D.C., Morgan State in Md., or Hampton in the Commonwealth of Virginia–equal to those from Georgetown, Univ of Md, or Old Dominion? Don’t make me laugh. They think of our schools just like they (we) think about the “Negro press” until someone shows them otherwise.

“As I suggested in my initial response on this subject, for a group of Black journalists such as NABJ to routinely harbor the self-hating notion that the Black newspaper industry is inferior goes back to the days of the founding of this organization, and this kind of snobbery is why there are not more NABJ members from among the legions of writers in The Black Press.”

7 thoughts on “Open Letter to the National Association of Black Journalists

  1. Askia, you stated your case very clearly and very well. I applaud you. Keep us on our toes! If we have specific examples, then we should use them and not paint the entire Black Press with the same brush. I got a very early start — and a scholarship — from The Wave, one of the black newspapers published in Los Angeles in the ’70s. I remember the editor there being as hard on me as any editor I had after that in the mainstream press. So we have to be careful how we characterize ourselves. As a recruiter for a mainstream newspaper, I’ve seen just as many stories from white applicants that are “poorly written, full of holes, one-sided or littered with typos.” And don’t get me started on what I’ve seen from applicants to our internship program! So you make valid points.

    Denise Bridges
    The Virginian-Pilot

  2. Askia,

    I’m with Denise in that Mr. Muhammad makes some great points. I spent three months in the mid-90s reporting for The Philadelphia Tribune under the able leadership of Executive Editor Irv Randolph. I also felt fortunate to work under editors Michael Dabney and Barnett Wright.

    I had a blast covering the public policy beat, including SEPTA and the Philadelphia School District. The only reason I left was that I got an offer from a suburban Philly paper. Having come off a long bout of unemployment after a layoff from a Virginia paper, my family and I needed the higher pay. But I felt no less conflicted.

    Fortunately, Irv understood my situation and wished me well. The Tribune is an excellent African-American oriented newspaper that I am proud to have been associated with, albeit for a short time.

  3. I thank you for this Askia. I hope that it leads to folks looking at the clips of folks like my friend and think “Maybe I should give her a chance…” instead of “You need to start over…”

  4. Askia,

    There you go again, making sense and right as rain. Have a look at my favorite newspaper, the St. Louis American either in print or online at stlamerican.com for a decent black weekly that strives to be well written and typo free and by the way, was recently voted best in the country by the NNPA. You could call the roll of great journalists who sharpened their craft at the St. Louis American en route to award winning work at mainstream dailies. When the New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe hired folks who worked at the American, there is a very good reason. They wanted the very best. When my father, N.A. Sweets and his best friend N.B. Young,(a recent Yale grad) started at the American in 1928, they were more than qualified to work in the mainstream press, but we all know how that went. Now is the time for the laid off, cut-back and fired journalists to come home to the black press and make a difference. The struggle continues.

  5. Please publish this letter regardign discrimination and racism on Texas College Campuses.

    August 28, 2013

    Tony E. Summers, Ed.D.
    Vice President of Student Development
    Richland College
    12800 Abrams Road
    Dallas, TX 75243
    P: 972-238-6202

    Hi Dr. Summers

    Re: Racial Bigotry, Discrimination, Violation of Title VII and other Civil Rights Laws

    I hate to bother you again…(Dr. Summers and Ms. Tully) I know you are very busy When I am up-set and violated I write and think so hear is what I have to say today… I never did hear from Dr. Blankenbaker Vice President for Teaching and Learning.
    Personally, I don’t expect to hear from Dr. Blankenbaker Vice President for Teaching and Learning. Likely he Mr. Blankenbaker would side with his staff which is what I expected.

    This does not mean I want allow Mr. Blankenbaker “DUE PROCESS” like the other Hypocrites have repeatedly denied me!

    I don’t know him Mr. Blankenbaker ( but I know he has avoid me possible) so I can’t make a fair assessment of what Mr. Blankenbaker position will be. However, I will know where he stands if he contacts me with respect and honesty… I will wait and see but it seems like he would have contacted me before I had to write this letter and complain.

    I’m not sure what to do at this point!!! I did hear from Executive Dean: Diane Hilbert and listen to hear one pretext argument (which I do not agree with) She, Dean Hilbert said “take my classes somewhere else”…

    I told her I would take that position up with the U.S. Dept. of Education and would quote her comments. “I don’t believe in allowing discrimination and Abusive teachers to dictate my education and I don’t believe it is right for ANY teacher, staff or faculty entrusted with the education of people especially young students”.

    If these faculty members are brazen and racist enough to do this to an Afro American Adult they will certainly abuse and violate the rights of young minority students.
    I have been attending Richland for at least 3 years. As a matter of record and fact…I know plenty of situations where white students are grant the exemptions/class wavier repeatedly… in fact the music department has students from high school they are not required to take the other classes.

    I have sat in the required recitals despite having a Master’s Degree (I have uncountable hours of listing to the Denver and Dallas Symphony and performing with symphonies and orchestra as well for at least 30 years). I also meet this requirement in my undergraduate degree. But I guess that doesn’t matter if you Black Male at Richland. My college transcripts show my prior education credentials. I am not pursuing any degree at this time.

    I am just a citizen wanting to take a class or two and, “Richland College faculty” want let me… Why?

    Just for the record… I have also performed in recitals with Wynton Marshals and Ray Brown and many international and nation musicians and vocalist etc.

    I tried to reason and explain to Mr. Hilbert the purpose of an education is to learn. I have already set through more of these costly and time consuming paid benefits for “Music Faculty” recitals LETS BE HONEST!!! What I’m I learning in these recitals at 50+ years old.
    I understand that youth pursuing a degree in education or music performance would need the classes but a 50+ experienced teacher and professional music does not. I believe I have met ANY requirements Mr. Logozzo or Central Texas College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees and certificates of completion. Maybe I should contact CTC COMMISSION AS WELL…

    JUST FOR THE RECORD THE REST OF THIS LETTER MAY BE A LITTLE HEATED AND IT SHOULD BE CONSIDERING WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am normally an easy going guy or I try to be but???????????

    If fact I find this requirement to be in itself disrespectful, insulting and offensive. A perfect example of the music department faculty inappropriate and nonsensical position. What am I YA BOY!!! More than ANY College (including Richland Community College) SHOULD a LICENSED CERTIFIED TEACHER which is exactly what I am….an adult music faculty ( like myself ) before to repeat such a prerequisite i.e. recitals school music ensembles…

    No, I was just asking for a reasonable lawful opportunity to work on and improve my skills on one of the instruments I play. What is so bad about that Richland…? I wonder how many parents or student would still want to invest their education dollars in a school or faculty like the folks pointed-out in this letter.

    In my opinion some faculty at Richland College are bigots and racist (in denial) These Richland College hypocrites demands respect but it is Clear many of your Faculty does NOT RESPECT ME!!! This is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated and I don’t need your permission to insist appropriate professional behavior when addressing me.

    Even arrested prisoners have more respect and dignity then the racist, bigoted and abuse faculty at Richland get respect, dignity and due process what wonton hubris is this coming from Logozzo. All the more reason why I won’t EVER BACKDOWN FROM BULLIES AND HATTERS!!!

    Personally, I would love to play in a Richland College woodwind or jazz ensemble! I just can’t do it this semester…. What is so hard to understand about that???…

    OH no money for the faculty and “DAME THE BLACK STUDENT”!!!
    Do you guys get it?????

    I have PAID to sit in your recitals and played in your ensembles in the past…In fact your faculty (Mr. “Logozzo” enrolled me in a class without my permission and I received a tuition bill for a class I was not told about or signed up for…. Is this legal???

    A perfect example when I was pushed and forced into a class without lawful authorization. Even if that was your policy Mr. Logozzo should have contacted me, informed me, OH, GOTTEN MY PERMISSION. Just one more example. Mr. Logozzo did check to see if I had funds in my account to cover this. Guess what I did not complain or say anything about those unlawful policy violations…
    BUT to repeatedly demand I pay to come to your concerts is a bit much even for me I’m not sure the Central Texas College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees and certificates of completion.
    Would condone theft or dishonesty because that is exactly what Mr. Logozzo did.

    Additionally, as for as ensembles, I would have played in an ensemble but I have never been allowed to play in an instrumental ensemble by Mr. Logozzo how also by the way is responsible for instrumental ensemble registration. I guess this is more evidence of selective discrimination HUM!!!!
    I find this abuse of Mr. Logozzo and the music department to be discriminatory and racial bias. I am looking forward to your retort regarding this letter and complaint.

    The Richland College administration, staff and faculty have apparently held ex parte meeting and conspired to stick together but there is plenty of documented evidence and if necessary plenty of subpoenas for student who under oath will clearly state that they have been given exemptions repeatedly. In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future i.e. my civil rights under Title VII et.al
    I don’t know what to do with a system that practice institutional racism (i.e. Richland College).

    If a newspaper or radio station would have asked ME (Personally) to report on Richland College in negative way a year ago I would have decline to do so… In general I like the school and most of the faculty and staff. But, I want put up with abusive bullies, liars, and racist.

    It is very clear and apparent to me that Richland college just like “MANY” other college practices racism, discrimination and bigotry on a regular basis. That is fine if you want to be a racist or bigot just be prepared to be held accountable and go jail if necessary just like every other criminal that breaks the law.
    Just as a side See the graduation rates, scholarships to black and minority students, drop-out rates, years to graduate or complete a degree just so the colleges can make more money!!!! Sure ya right…

    In closing I will wait to hear from Dr. Blankenbaker through this week. Personally, I don’t expect to hear from Dr. Blankenbaker Vice President for Teaching and Learning. If so then what?

    I’m gathering my documentation and arguments to the U.S. Department of Education to request an investigation.

    I’m fairly certain Mr. Blankenbaker has already spoken to Mr. Logozzo, Ms. Hilbert and god knows who else. So much for fair and honest DUE PROCESS HEAR!!!!

    As I said before the documentation and evidence is plentiful regarding the exemption policy regarding private lessons.

    Now, I am concern about MORE retaliation since my personal experiences and observations clearly prove numerous violation of the Federal Civil Rights act under Title VII et.al
    a bully will push you until you stand up… not that there WAS no solution to the problem.
    But the Abuse by certain people (staff and faculty ETC.) needs to be reported. Central Texas College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees and certificates of completion and the U.S. Department of Education.

    I feel that if nothing is done then I have to take lawful and legal action. To expose unlawful violations It’s because these same faculty abuse their authority time and time again they think they can abuse any N…..they want to.

    I’m sure most of this will be denied by Richland College Staff and Faculty but that is what dishonest people do. Isn’t it… But the documents, facts and evidence are there.
    This whole matter could have and should have been resolved without reports to the U.S. Department of Education.

    Again I hate to bother you (Dr. Summers) with this but I will continue my education ANYWHERE I want ( including Richland and dare anyone to stop, punish or retaliate) and I want put up with threats, racism, discrimination or uppity abusive teachers. I will see you next semester…

    Personally, I really thought Richland was a more Ethical, Moral, Law abiding institution…not an institution that allows faculty, staff and students to promote racism and discrimination. I would rather be sitting in a class or doing something more productive with my time and that is very aggravating that I have to spend my time fifty years after the Martin Luther King March on Washington.

    In closing, I would have preferred Mr. Logozzo to be a decent, honest and ethical teacher.

    When a Black MAN uses words like allow, respect, dignity, justice he is considered uppity…a definite double standard. What if I was allowed to evaluate and report on college faculty would I see and hear more of the same stories from other “BLACK MEN” OR BOYS?

    It is not as though this has been an on-going repeated request I personally have made…. although numerous young white students are not FORCED to pay tuition or use their time to sit in on recitals and some students are not even eligible to perform in an ensemble. Ensemble students have to addition for and some of them cannot pass the auditions.

    I have fairly certain he is not but what bothers me is the college allows him to be that way.

    I personally believe a through and detailed examination, documentation review and history of Richland College music department WILL EPOSE the faculty and school for what it is…

    I really don’t need the Richland Chronicle or KDUX to be hear either!!!

    I really did not expect his superiors to do the right thing either but now I know for sure they want!!!

    Sincerely
    Michael Berry
    Michael Berry

    Cc: btully@dcccd.edu

    I will forward your concern to Dr. Blankenbaker Vice President for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Blankenbaker is the appropriate person to address your concern.

    Tony E. Summers, Ed.D.
    Vice President of Student Development
    Richland College
    12800 Abrams Road
    Dallas, TX 75243
    P: 972-238-6202

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