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Rochester Association of Black Journalists Wins National Award

Patti Singer

 Rochester Association of Black Journalists officers Joanne Gordon, vice-president of broadcast; Rashad Smith, recording secretary; Ericka E. Wilson, treasurer; and Rhonda Austin, corresponding secretary accepted the National Association of Black Journalists 2019 Professional Chapter of the Year Award. Provided photo

The Rochester Association of Black Journalists was named the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists Professional Chapter of the Year.

The award – the first for the Rochester chapter – was announced in early August in Aventura, Fla., at the 44th annual NABJ Convention and Career Fair.

“This award furthers our mission,” RABJ president Richard McCollough said. “It energizes us and it makes us stronger. When you have that kind of recognition, it’s easier to communicate with not only other chapters but the movers and shakers within the industry. They know where Rochester, New York, is.”

RABJ was the smallest chapter among the finalists – Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego and Twin Cities. Rochester shared the honor with the San Diego Association of Black Journalists. According to the NABJ, the award has been shared before.

The NABJ Chapter of the Year Award is presented to an affiliate chapter based on criteria that include the number of new members who have joined the chapter and NABJ, the chapter’s community activities and programs, and the number and size of scholarships awarded by the chapter.

In 2018, RABJ had a variety of activities, such as:

  • hosting numerous panel discussions on the role of the media with such organization as the American Association of University Women and the United Way’s African American Leadership Development Program;
  • holding a highly-celebrated Black Media Brunch;
  • creating a partnership with the popular Little Theatre to present  the monthly “Black Cinema Series” with panel discussions;
  • promoting the importance of voting within the local community throughout 2018; and
  • leading in the outcry against the attack on the Frederick Douglass statue standing at the intersection of Alexander and Tracy streets in the city of Rochester. The vandalism occurred after a yearlong community celebration of the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth, and RABJ was active in those events.

“Frederick Douglass is our mentor, and every journalist of color should come through Rochester because of Frederick Douglass,” McCollough said. “What did he stand for? What was the Northstar newspaper, what did it stand for? It fought for justice and freedom and equality and spoke out against wrongs. That’s what we want to encourage.”

RABJ has been active for 15 years. Prior to becoming and official NABJ chapter, the organization was the Rochester Black Communicators.

McCollough said the mission of RABJ is to get more diversity in newsrooms – among among the people who make decisions on what to cover and among the people doing the actual reporting – even as the number of those people is declining.

“There is still a place at the table even though the newsrooms are shrinking,” he said. “We still have a diverse population. It’s not going anywhere. We still need to have a place at the table.”