Journalism group wants to be on-campus voice for black students

Brittany Senary

New chapter president looks to increase

After acquiring a new leader, a black student organization will be up and running by next semester.

The National Association of Black Journalists is an organization of journalists, students and media-related professionals that wants to strengthen ties among black journalists and help others understand the importance of fairness in the workplace. The NABJ on campus is a student chapter of the national association.

Gene Shelton, assistant professor of journalism and NABJ adviser, said membership is open to all students, including those outside the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Jeff Johnson, junior broadcast journalism major, is now the NABJ interim president. Shelton offered the position to Johnson last month when he found out that Loriél Thompson, last semester’s NABJ president, is not enrolled in school this semester.

Currently, the organization is not sanctioned by Kent State. In April, NABJ can reposition the organization and apply for official status for next fall with Johnson as the new president.

Because the organization is not sanctioned, it cannot hold official meetings. The group does intend to hold planning meetings for next fall to organize and find officers.

Johnson said he thinks more students would be interested in the organization if it were advertised more.

“There are not a lot of organizations for African-Americans,” Johnson said. “There is nothing like NABJ on campus, and without it, we do not have a voice.”

Shelton said the organization is in the planning stages on how to relaunch for the fall. He said at this point there is very little NABJ can do this semester.

“There was a lack of leadership,” Shelton said. “If there is not a president or secretary, then there is no activity in the organization. The problem has nothing to do with the organization. It was a series of situations. An organization cannot exist on having an adviser alone. The proactive aspect has to come from student leadership.”

Shelton said one of the reasons NABJ has a small membership is the organization is not being heard.

“If the organization is not speaking loud enough and saying, ‘We are worthy, we need your help and we can help you,’ then students might not listen and pay attention,” Shelton said. “We have encountered some weak spots, but we’re not going anywhere.”

In the past, the organization has gone to high schools on Fridays to sit with journalism students and help with their articles. The group also took a trip to Chicago and, through the efforts of Shelton, received tickets to “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Shelton wants to see the organization become a strong, viable voice of activity and progress on campus.

“It represents what solves all problems,” Shelton said. “Communicating and helping people who might not understand the message to better understand that message, to break down stereotypes and to communicate clearly and concisely about issues.”

Shelton also thinks a partnership with Black United Students might be beneficial to NABJ.

“I see NABJ as being as vitally important to this campus community as BUS,” Shelton said. “BUS is the political advocacy group for African Americans, then NABJ is the media messenger to send that message out there and to help BUS. Maybe there needs to be a closer relationship between BUS and NABJ.”

Johnson is trying to find activities that the organization can do to get people enthused and interested in joining. Speakers, career workshops and resumé-building are all potential activities for NABJ.

He plans on creating a Facebook group and sending e-mails through a listserv to inform students about the organization.

Johnson’s goals are to make NABJ fully operational and have two meetings a month next semester.

“The organization helps African -Americans gain professional help in journalism and has fun at the same time,” Johnson said.

Students who are interested in learning more about the organization or would like to join can contact Johnson at [email protected].

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Brittany Senary at [email protected].