The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) held its virtual 2021 convention during the weekend of August 18 through 21. The event included a job fair that featured more than 90 exhibitors and recruiters.
Disney has been a great partner of the Black Press, and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products was one of the Titanium Sponsors of the convention. I was able to zoom into some of the fabulous and informative panels, and I’ll briefly cover a couple of them.
One of interest featured team members who work on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. The panel titled “Weighty Topics and Uncomfy Truths with The Daily Show Team” featured one of the show’s main correspondents Roy Wood, Jr., while the team discussed how it works hard to deliver hard-hitting news reports with a bit of levity— while still maintaining the integrity of a particular situation.
The team members said that they try to connect with the audience by doing deep research but still packing an emotional punch. “By the time it gets to me, the meal is on the stove, and I am just telling the team what to season it with,” Wood said. The panel agreed that they are a comedy team, but they will tackle any subject. One show last summer featured a segment titled Copaganda, in which Noah looked at how depictions of police in film and TV can skew public perception of cops and glorify officers who break laws and use violence unnecessarily. Also, since the pandemic, the show has raised more than $3 million to help various charities.
Another panel discussion covered how Black reporters are often the ones covering broadcast news reports of Black-centered news. The panel titled “Death By a Thousand Cuts, How to go From Trendy Diversity Hire to Industry Staple” centered around letters from Black journalists across the country who felt they were used as “checkmarks” for diversity rather than assets for promotion. These checkmarks include reporting during Black History Month or other Black-centered specials.
Some on the panel felt that only Black reporters can do the greatest justice for these stories. In my opinion, Blacks fought for this inclusion of reporting news from Black neighborhoods. I write in my book “Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago” in a chapter titled Blacks in White TV – Trying to Find a Little Color in a Black and white World:
“After significant riots in cities beginning in 1965 in the Watts area of Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, and another particularly devastating riot that occurred on July 23, 1967, in Detroit, the Kerner Report, named after then-Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, investigated the reasons behind these civil disturbances. The report—conducted also with help from Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York City—came out shortly after Dr. King’s death in 1968 and charged, among other things, that local news segments were distorting the news in urban Black communities. The protests against segregation and discrimination, previously limited to radio broadcasts, were now more impressively shown in the form of televised accounts.”
Because of this, the Kerner Commission mandated that newsrooms hire more Blacks. One of the edicts of the Commission, “Expand coverage of the Negro community and of race problems through permanent assignment of reporters familiar with urban and racial affairs.”
I say Black reporters must not look at this responsibility as a burden 60 years later. Although I realize that Blacks want to report on other communities as well. Diversity in newsrooms provides opportunities for all.
Musician Cordae has partnered with Disney Dreamers Academy to provide scholarships to HBCU students. He talked about being a “blessing to others,” while announcing he will provide scholarships by donating proceeds from his record sales. “Young people are the future. If I can spark the brain of the next world leader, I’ll be happy,” he said.
Gospel singer Kierra Sheard- Kelly discussed Disney’s new attraction, Harmonious, an upcoming nighttime spectacular for EPCOT, which brings together an eclectic blend of artists and music genres from around the world, and actor Giancarlo Esposito talked about the “Disney magic” celebrating the fact that the parks are undefeated at breaking new ground in many areas. He mentioned a new Disney Parks, Experiences and Products initiative called Disney Magic Makers to reward those “heroes who keep on giving.” To learn more, visit disneymagicmakersnomination.com.