Next week, members of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) will
converge on the city of New Orleans for its 37th Annual Convention & Career Fair. In an ironic
twist, it will also be a week to the day that Advance Publications, parent of the iconic Times-
Picayune newspaper, announced that 84 of its 173 people in the newsroom were losing their
jobs, effective Sept. 30.
On the same day in Alabama, three major daily newspapers laid off approximately 400
employees, many of them in the newsrooms at The Birmingham News, the Press-Register in
Mobile and The Huntsville Times. Among those losing their jobs were Birmingham chapter
founding member Eddie Lard -- the newspaper's lone African-American editorial voice -- along
with former chapter president Sherrel Stewart and current officer Roy Williams.
"It is truly a sad moment in the industry as my hometown newspaper, the Times-Picayune
and the other Newhouse Gulf Coast newspapers have been hit hard," said NABJ President
Gregory Lee, Jr., a New Orleans native who worked in the sports department at the Times-
Picayune from 1993 to 1999. "The lack of diversity that will be suffered in these newsrooms
is unacceptable, and will result in more losses for these companies as consumers will go
elsewhere to find news that is truly representative of their community."
Sadly, our brethren at the Times-Picayune are not alone. The website Paper Cuts has
unofficially chronicled job losses in the newspaper industry since 2007. In 2012 alone,
according to Paper Cuts, the Washington Post had almost 50 employees take buyouts,
including a large number of journalists of color. Illinois' State Journal-Register cut 21 editorial
jobs, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette lost 64 and Advance Publications' MLive Media
Group and Advance Central Services Michigan assumed control over mlive.com, annarbor.com
and eight Booth newspapers, leaving 55 without jobs.
It is journalists of color who are bearing the brunt of these cuts. The number of African-American
journalists declined for the fourth consecutive year, with those in the newsroom workforce falling
from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent in 2012, according to a newsroom census released
in April by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Center for Advanced Social
Research (CASR), a unit of at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Since 2002, African American journalists have lost 993 newsroom jobs - more than any other
group of minorities, including Hispanic, Asian and Native American, according to the census.
"A diverse newsroom should be an economic as well as a moral imperative," said NABJ's
Lee. "Diversity is a choice, and while it may be a tough choice for some in challenging economic
times, it should be no less valued as managers consider bottom-line priorities. NABJ members
are tired of seeing these depressing numbers annually. They demand more action about a
problem that has existed for many years."
But it's not all bad news as we come to New Orleans. NABJ has put together a stellar program,
offering workshops covering topics including the 2012 elections, media entrepreneurship,
personal branding, data visualization, multimedia one-man-band journalism and moving from
journalism to academia. NABJ has also partnered with the Online News Association to bring
ONA Camp to New Orleans, offering a day-long Learning Lab that will cover the latest in
The association is giving back to the community through efforts including spearheading a book
drive for school children, creating a Day of Service to help restore a home ravaged by Hurricane
Katrina and holding a Town Hall meeting on education reform in a post-Katrina landscape. Vice
President Joe Biden will speak to attendees, and the Welcome Reception and Concert will
include a performance by R&B artist Melanie Fiona.
Members will attend newsmaker plenaries covering key issues including the Trayvon Martin
case, the Affordable Care Act, the African-American electorate in battleground states and a talk
with top media executives.
Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash will offer a special screening of their new TV Land
show "Soul Man," a spin-off of the hit "Hot In Cleveland." Director Spike Lee will provide a
special screening of his new movie "Red Hook Summer." Ava DuVernay, winner of the Best
Director Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival for "Middle of Nowhere" will do a special
screening. And last - but not least -- NABJ will pay tribute to to the media industry's cream of
the crop for their work in journalism at its Salute To Excellence Gala.
So despite the recent bad news for journalists in Alabama and Louisiana, NABJ stands ready to
provide members with the latest tools and technologies to keep them relevant in the newsroom.
If you're in New Orleans June 20-24, stop by the Hilton Riverside and say hello!