National Politics

At Miami meeting, black journalists explore how to tell the stories of rising racism

A quick look at the NABJ 2019 convention near Miami

Some moments from the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists convention, which runs from August 7 - 11 in Aventura.
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Some moments from the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists convention, which runs from August 7 - 11 in Aventura.

In a political era laced with racist rhetoric, how do newsrooms report fairly and honestly on racial politics?

That was one of the underlying themes at this week’s annual National Association of Black Journalists conference in Aventura. For the 4,000 black journalists and media professionals at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort and Spa, recent comments from President Donald Trump — which many have condemned as racist — underscore the importance.

“All media must tackle a better understanding of race issues in this country so that they can report authentically and accurately the times that we’re living in and the challenges that this country is facing,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover, a social strategy manager at NBC, in an interview.

The perspective of black journalists is essential, she said.

“For black media professionals and journalists, we not only understand and see the elements of where racism surfaces in our culture, we are some of the ones leading these conversations in newsrooms,” said Glover.

Recent comments by the president have kept race in the headlines. In July, he tweeted that four freshman female congresswomen of color should go back to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” A few weeks later, he posted a tweet aimed at U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, who is black, and his Baltimore district, calling Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess.” NABJ issued a statement disputing the statement’s truth.

Errin Haines Whack, an Associated Press reporter who covers race and ethnicity, said: “You are not going to cover this election as well as you could be covering it if you don’t have a politics team that includes black women,” Whack said at a panel on highlighting stories about black women and girls. “When we get to the top 10 headlines at the end of this year, most of them will be about race, if not race and politics.”

But the color of one’s skin can’t skew the reporting, Whack said.

“White identity is something that we need to be talking about, something that we need to be exploring. And If I can’t do that as a journalist because I’m hurt as a black person, then I’m not going to be able to do my job,” she said. “None of my identities can obscure how I approach the work. They can inform how I approach the work, but they shouldn’t be a barrier to me getting the story.”

The five-day conference, which ends Sunday, included a Thursday forum with a handful of presidential candidates. Other topics on the agenda included entrepreneurial strategies, social media, diversity in tech reporting, safety in the workplace and book publishing.

Woven throughout the agenda is the importance of freedom of the press in light of Trump’s comments calling the media “the enemy of the people.”

Press freedom is “fractured” in the United States as it never has been before, said Glover.

“It’s part of our task to make sure that the public is informed and understands how important journalism is today.”