Johnita Due is now senior counsel and diversity council chair of CNN.
Johnita Due, daughter of civil rights activists John Due and Patricia Stephens Due, has come full circle. A Silver Knight award winner in journalism, she is now making sure the voices of people who often aren't heard get their say.Johnita Due1985 JournalismMiami SouthridgeSenior HighQ:
How did you earn your Silver Knight?A:
When I was in high school, I was involved with non-partisan groups that encouraged people to vote. I think those activities led to my winning the award. I came across individuals who felt they didn't express themselves well and whose voices were not being heard. Q:
Where did you find your inspiration?A:
I think it stemmed from my knowledge of my parents' experiences during the '60s. When you talk about the history of the country and the racial segregation, it's always been very important to me. Unless you're given the opportunity to be full contributors in a society -- that includes being able to express your voice -- the society is not going to be healthy.Q:
What did you do in college?A:
One of my major issues has always been race relations, so in college I studied psychology, race relations and social change.Q:Then how did you end up at CNN? A:
I wanted to do it to give voice to people . . . . When I went to law school I realized I was using the civil rights model as a profession.Q:
How does that reflect in what you do now?A:
Practicing at CNN as a lawyer, I gain access to court proceedings and records to make sure people are informed. As a First Amendment attorney I can further my desire to have people become aware.
At CNN, I'm also chair of the diversity council where our mission is to make sure that we're being inclusive by sharing diverse perspectives in our coverage. To me, that takes me right back to 1985 when I won the Silver Knight award. Q:
Do you keep any Silver Knight-related memorabilia?A:
I still have the article from 1985. And it's amazing because I went from journalism, to psychology, to law school, back to journalism. And even though the path wasn't direct, today I'm able to do what I said I wanted to do in 1985, give voices to the voiceless.Q:
You really came full circle.A:
My career path was pretty unusual, but what I have learned is that there are some things that you know -- even in high school. Listen to that voice of reason inside, it's a fundamental part of who you are.