Legendary Journalist Sees Power at Black Colleges PDF Print E-mail
Written by {{Eddie R. Cole Jr. - Black College Wire}}   
Monday, 13 February 2006
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Photo credit: Mike McCray/A&T Register
"If we didn't see ourselves" at such networking events as the HBCU Newspaper Conference, said veteran journalist Chuck Stone, we would wonder whether "we had the power to achieve at the level that is mandated by our background."

African American journalism pioneer Chuck Stone is fervent in his belief in historically black colleges and universities.

Stone, founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists, never attended an HBCU. His only personal tie to an HBCU is that a sister attended Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.

Yet Stone acknowledges these institutions' importance.

At the 2006 HBCU National Newspaper Conference and Job Fair in Greensboro, N.C., he took the opportunity to stress his belief again.

%e2%80%9cHBCUs have the same relevance, significance, power, and contribution to American society as all of the Catholic schools like Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Loyola, DePaul,%e2%80%9d said Stone, 81, as he reclined in his hotel room bed. A bow tie hung loosely around his collar and his cowboy boots were on the floor. %e2%80%9cThere is no difference with what we do. So I think it%e2%80%99s very important that we have the HBCUs as a relevant contribution to the culture of American society.%e2%80%9d

For Stone, gatherings such as the HBCU National Newspaper Conference, held this year from Feb. 8 to 11 and hosted by North Carolina A&T State University, are the means for the schools to build a foundation toward making connections.

%e2%80%9cFirst of all, we don%e2%80%99t know who each other" are, said Stone. %e2%80%9cAt a conference like this, we know that there are about 120 HBCUs, all right, and I don%e2%80%99t know how many of them have newspapers, but even those that come here, a lot them come here, for the first time they see each other. They say %e2%80%98hey, we%e2%80%99re a force and we%e2%80%99ve got some power and together we can get some things accomplished.%e2%80%99

%e2%80%9cWe see each other; we see ourselves. But if we didn%e2%80%99t see ourselves, we would kind of wonder whether or not we had the power to achieve at the level that is mandated by our background.%e2%80%9d

Some HBCU newspapers are already working together.

The Gramblinite and the Southern Digest, student newspapers at Grambling State and Southern universities, respectively, combined efforts to produce a joint Bayou Classic edition in November. In October, the A&T Register and the Meter, papers at North Carolina A&T and Tennessee State universities, used each other in covering the two schools%e2%80%99 football matchup at the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.

Conferences are valuable in providing opportunities to check out others' work and to meet one another.

%e2%80%9cIt helps students from the host" newspaper "to see how other schools are doing it and to see what works for them,%e2%80%9d said Chad Roberts, a senior at A&T from Elizabeth City, N.C., and opinions editor at the A&T Register, the 2006 host newspaper. %e2%80%9cWe get a chance to build relationships to benefit and publicize, and maybe it will pay off in the long run. It%e2%80%99s about networking.%e2%80%9d

Stone, who started his journalism career in 1958, said it hasn%e2%80%99t always been easy for young African American journalists to come together and make connections on such a large level.

%e2%80%9cI%e2%80%99ve been fairly successful. I%e2%80%99ve had to fight and struggle, but I always knew I was going to win,%e2%80%9d said Stone, who was the only black person in his class at Wesleyan University, earning his B.A. degree in 1948. %e2%80%9cI knew I was always going to overcome. I was the founding president" of NABJ. "Why? Because they weren%e2%80%99t hiring black reporters, so I said we%e2%80%99ve got to stop this. So, I founded the organization 30 years ago and now . . . we have 8- and 9,000 people show up at our conventions.

%e2%80%9cSo, if we are dissatisfied, don%e2%80%99t complain. You go out and do something. If you%e2%80%99re hungry, you don%e2%80%99t buy a fish, you learn how to fish and feed yourself.%e2%80%9d

Stone %e2%80%9cplays a big part in influencing young journalists, especially HBCUs, because like he says, we are the future of the media," said Addie Whisenant, a junior at A&T from Atlanta and president of the A&T chapter of NABJ. "If we can%e2%80%99t tell our side of the story, who will?%e2%80%9d

On the other hand, nine of 10 HBCU student journalists interviewed before Stone's keynote address at the conference awards banquet did not know of him or his accomplishments.

That is a shortcoming. %e2%80%9cIt is essential that in appreciating where black media is now, that we recognize those that come before us,%e2%80%9d said Kirsten D. Watkins, a junior at Tennessee State from Atlanta who is arts and entertainment editor of the Meter. %e2%80%9cThey passed the baton on to us. With him founding NABJ, it makes it possible for us to realize or recognize some of the great journalists we have. His legacy is rich, and through meeting him I have a greater respect for the legacy that he is leaving on African American journalism.%e2%80%9d

Stone said the journalism field needs to embrace diversification of the newsroom.

%e2%80%9cOne of the changes taking place, clearly, is the increase in the number of minorities being hired in newspapers (and) television.

%e2%80%9cI think also that people have to make this possible. People like Oprah Winfrey, she%e2%80%99s a dynamic force of television. People love her and they see this woman, when she interviews a guy for a book, his book sales soar! That%e2%80%99s the power of this one black woman, and she handles it with dignity and with grace.%e2%80%9d

Television is just the tip of the iceberg. Experts say the combined use of radio, television and print has the future sitting on the edge of its seat.

%e2%80%9cConvergence media is fun stuff,%e2%80%9d said Travis Cooper, a senior at Tennessee State from Memphis and music at WTST, the Tennessee State campus radio station. %e2%80%9cThere are more flexible outlets through the Internet. You can have different forms of media all in one site. If you want video, print and audio, you can have it. Even some television stations have their own magazines or newsletters. They are going in the opposite direction of newspapers, while video streaming on the Internet is what some newspapers are doing.%e2%80%9d

But Stone warns of possibly losing your reading or viewing audience by overdoing convergence.

%e2%80%9cI call it information overload. You can%e2%80%99t do it all,%e2%80%9d warned Stone, who edited three African American newspapers and retired from daily journalism as a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. He said he reads seven newspapers per day and two magazines per week, and that consumers can digest only so much information. %e2%80%9cThe trouble with Internet now and e-mail, you (say) convergence, some people suffer from information overload. We%e2%80%99re still being overwhelmed with all of this, like CNN, 24 hours. CNN has done a lot to hurt newspapers because CNN is 24 hours.%e2%80%9d

Stone said the breaking news provided by television led to the demise of afternoon newspapers. Today's journalists must be able to %e2%80%9cparticularize the most important elements in a story%e2%80%9d to help people follow the news.

Stone has an acronym for student journalists to remember, guidance on how to produce stories that will provide good clips and eventually a job.

%e2%80%9cIt%e2%80%99s called F.E.A.T.,%e2%80%9d said Stone, who is professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill%e2%80%99s School of Journalism. %e2%80%9cThe story should be fair, it should be even-handed, it should be accurate and it should be thorough. That%e2%80%99s all.%e2%80%9d

Eddie R. Cole Jr., a student at Tennessee State University, is editor in chief of the Meter.

Posted Feb. 14, 2006

 
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