Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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National Association of Black Journalists promotes diverse voices in media 

Danese+Kenon%2C+managing+editor+of+the+Philadelphia+Inquirer%2C+tells+the+story+of+her+first+camera+during+the+NABJ+Media+Day+Feb.+24%2C+2024+at+WSIU+studio
Dominique Martinez-Powell
Danese Kenon, managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, tells the story of her first camera during the NABJ Media Day Feb. 24, 2024 at WSIU studio

Southern Illinois University’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists is a registered student organization that promotes Black voices through multimedia platforms. 

“Our role is to get Black students who are interested in journalism a place where they can express themselves, whether that be in a writing format, photojournalism, or just a plethora of different things,” said NABJ President Janiyah Gaston.  

The association has become a beacon for promoting inclusivity in media. Its website states, “We are the voice for the voiceless and won’t stop til every voice is heard and respected.” 

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“Right now, we’ve been hosting a lot of events just to get people more interested in journalism and to learn more about us,” Gaston said. “This Saturday [Feb. 24], we have our Media Day event in the communications building. We have guest speakers, workshops, different other activities to get students more involved in journalism.” 

The event was a collaboration with the Black Togetherness Organization in celebration of Black History Month. The event was free and open to all SIU students, faculty and Carbondale community members. It involved hands-on-workshops, panels, discussions and more. 

The organization is open to all majors and meets on Thursdays at 5:30. 

“We have like four different committees,” Gaston said. “So say you want to build up your social media skills, we’ve got social media. Say you want to work on event planning, we’ve got event planning. We have a little something for everybody, and we don’t want people to think that just because we have journalists in our name that we’re only exclusively that.” 

Gaston took over as president of the organization her junior year. Since then, she has worked to increase awareness of NABJ. 

“Since we do not have a lot to work with since I took over, I’ve been more focused on trying to get our name out there,” she said. 

She said that when she began in spring 2022, she had to “essentially start from scratch” with finances. 

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“At that time, I also took over an organization called the Black Women’s Task Force,” she said. “We’re more volunteer-based. So it was a bit challenging being a junior taking over two [organizations] and just trying to work with what I had.”

She said many members of the Black Women’s Task Force were seniors, so she didn’t want to overwhelm them before graduation. 

“It was just more of a balancing act,” she said, “and I have a really great team for both my [organizations]…Both sides are really amazing and they do a lot of work.” 

KaMahri Scott, secretary and event chair of NABJ, said she joined the organization her first week on campus. 

“I was searching [for RSO’s] on Instagram, because I am a journalism double-major [with communications]…and I was like, ‘I gotta find something journalism-related so I can stay on track,’” she said. “So I went searching, I went to the RSO fair, and I found them [NABJ]. And I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna sign up. This is for me.’” 

Scott said that being a part of the organization has contributed to her professional growth and development by helping improve her event planning skills. 

“Because we are under an umbrella organization, you have to communicate with different groups and plan certain events, so I feel as though it’s helped my event planning skills and just making sure everything is in order and talking to other orgs just to get everything lined out,” she said. 

Gaston said, “For me, professional wise, I think it’s exposed me to a plethora of amazing people to reach out to if I have any questions or anything like that. Obviously, networking is amazing and just seeing that, hey, there are other Black journalists around the Carbondale area, too, and also just seeing how widely-known NABJ is, because it’s not like this small organization, this is on a national scale. They host events all throughout the United States, and they have chapters everywhere.”   

As a student member of the national chapter, Gaston receives emails about events and scholarships NABJ offers and shares the opportunities with her members. 

“I’ve been to a lot of great webinars…There was one I went to that was talking about mental health and just how to like, address that and what to look for, just general stuff like that,” she said. “They also have their convention coming up that we plan on going to in July in Chicago, so it’s going to be a really great opportunity for all of us.

As for the current state of representation in newsrooms, both Scott and Gaston believe diversity is pivotal in telling unbiased, unified and honest stories. 

“I think it would be better if more journalists that told stories about certain areas looked like, the areas they were telling the stories about, because I feel as though it creates a certain bias,” Scott said. “If you watch Fox News and you hear what they’re saying, it creates, like, a negative atmosphere versus if you watch ABC it’s like, oh, okay, it’s not that negative. So I feel like if newsrooms are more open to different types of people reporting on different things, it will be more cohesive.” 

Gaston added, “I do agree that we need to have different ethnicities, different races, working in the newsroom, but I also think it’s important that, especially for the content of news that is delivered, we don’t shy away from those topics that people may feel uncomfortable [about], like racism – that’s something that has to be discussed. Like, we can’t talk about America and how we’re going to move forward without addressing the elephant in the room, which is racism.” 

Gaston said the organization is currently planning several events for March and April. 

“In March we are going to bring in a TV personality; her name is Shay Harris, and she’s just going to speak to the different Black students and let them know about her journey in journalism, and how she was able to navigate that, being a Black woman in a predominately white field,” she said. “And in April, we are currently in the process of planning a Black Professionals Brunch, and we are going to host our second annual journalism workshop.” 

She encourages those who are interested to attend a meeting. 

“We’re all over campus,” she said. “We’re at recruitments at every RSO fair. We have events you can follow on our Instagram @NABJSIU, and yeah…We’re not that hard to find.” 

 

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