UA Journalism Student Comments on Immigration Debate While Attending Hispanic Journalists Conference

UA Student is interviewed on her thoughts about immigration issue by KENS-TV 5 in San Antonio.

Ellisa Bray, a journalism and international studies major at University of Alabama is interviewed by KENS-TV reporter Jeremy  Baker.
Ellisa Bray, a journalism and international studies major at University of Alabama is interviewed by KENS-TV reporter Jeremy Baker.

SAN ANTONIO– A University of Alabama journalism student is offering some insight on the ongoing immigration debate.

Ellisa Bray, a Houston native, is representing the University at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) meeting here in South Texas this week.

Bray drew on her background as an international studies and journalism double major in providing her perspective on the major issue on the agenda at the NAHJ’s 30th convention.

Here’s a link to the story by KENS-TV Reporter Jeremy Baker:

UA Journalism Student Weighs on Immigration with San Antonio TV Station

San Antonio Express-News’ coverage of Becky Hammon Worth Going the Extra Mile To Hold In My Hand

The centerpiece on Becky Hammon in The San Antonio Express-News exemplifies the appeal of reading a national news story in the local newspaper where the story originated.

While people could find the text and perhaps a photo with this story online, reading it as it was “packaged” “above the fold” on page A1 of Wednesday’s San Antonio Express-News was part of its appeal.

SAN ANTONIO–  Call me old-fashioned.

But I took special delight in reading San Antonio Express-News‘ Mike Monroe’s front page story Wednesday about WNBA All-Star Becky Hammon being selected as the first female paid assistant coach in the NBA.

The announcement of Hammon’s hiring by the San Antonio Spurs made national news.

The historic nature of her hire makes it a national news story.

Local Makes a Difference

But, the national media coverage (i.e. Andrew Keh’s story buried on page B13 of The New York Times) of it does not compare to the way the story was played in the paper in the hometown of the Spurs.

Along with the front page story  that included more than the expected quotes and statement from yeah management, there was Terrence Thomas’ “reaction piece” featuring Hammon’s female teammates and a perspective offered only by Roy Bragg, who’s been a Texas journalist for more than 30 years.

Those other related stories were in the SPORTS section of the Express-News.

On page A2, the paper promotes “Tomorrow’s front-page stories now available at 10:30 every night, exclusively on

Discovered veteran sports journalism Roy Bragg while reading a print edition of The San Antonio Express-News Wednesday.
I discovered veteran sports journalist Roy Bragg’s work while reading a print edition of The San Antonio Express-News Wednesday.

Why was it important for me to read this piece Tuesday night?  I’m not sure SPEED was the motivation for me to know the story.

The perspective that only this publication provides is reason enough for it to land on my front step the next day.

And, I know the issue is not one of medium, but reader preference.

The business model doesn’t work if people like me are in the shrinking smaller and smaller minority.

But, daily newspapers all over the country are hastening their demise by making their product harder and harder to find.

Go the Extra Mile

The absolute shame is that I had to go to three locations just to find the publication.  At my hotel, I was told the Express-News delivers so few copies that if you don’t come to the gift shop within 1 hour of it opening, the papers are gone.

What’s wrong with this picture?    Is the Circulation Department at The Express-News that afraid that they will have leftover papers, so they don’t deliver many copies so they sell out in an hour?   Why not deliver 3 times as many newspapers?

I know when I’m on a plane or sitting in a restaurant, I’m usually the only one turning the pages of a newspaper while others are tapping away on their smart phones or tablets.

So that explains why this Hearst newspaper, traditionally one of the four largest papers in the state of Texas, is hard to find.

They say All Politics is Local. I enjoy reading about those politics when I visit a town in the local paper, especially when it has a national reputation.

The story in Wednesday’s Express-News about a controversial proposal to increase the storm-water utility fee was interesting to me.   It was “packaged” along with a column by David Hendricks on the BUSINESS page.

I know I’m old-fashioned.

But,  reading the local paper has an appeal that will never be replicated in an e-edition or on Twitter or some other electronic means.


Remembering My Toughest Journalism Professor- Richmond Free Press Founder Raymond Boone

Mourning the loss of one of the nation’s best advocacy journalists, Raymond Boone, Founder of The Richmond Free Press, whose funeral takes place Tuesday in my hometown of Richmond, Va.

(Sanra Sellars-10/16/13)
Raymond Boone

Just received the very sad news tonight that one of my former journalism professors and former boss,  Richmond Free Press Founder Raymond Boone will be funeralized tomorrow in my hometown of Richmond, Va.

My parents thought I knew that he passed away last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

They remember Boone as the very tough editor who gave me a chance to get started as a reporter right after finishing my journalism degree at Howard University in 1992.

Even before I launched into the world of broadcast journalism as a television news producer, there was the newspaper writing that I had learned to do as a news-editorial journalism major.

If I look back at those Free Press stories now, I will see that almost always my lede (the first paragraph of a news story) was rewritten.   Mr. Boone made sure that I “nailed” the point of the story in that first paragraph.

The heavy editing of my copy did me some good, a lot of good.

The fact is Raymond Boone was well-acquainted (perhaps too acquainted) with my writing as he was a member of the journalism faculty at Howard University, before launching The Richmond Free Press.

The One Journalism Class I Had To Repeat

Even though I graduated cum laude  from Howard U.,  there were two classes I had to repeat.   Professor Boone’s Copyediting class was one of them.

Apparently, I was not acquainted quite well enough with the Associated Press Stylebook.

Yes, as a veteran campus reporter (and later editor-in-chief) for THE HILLTOP, I was insulted when I saw a “D” on my grade report  (You have to make a C- or higher for a journalism class to count toward graduation).

Professor Boone and my father were friends long before I ever stepped foot on Howard’s campus.  But,  that didn’t mean Boone was going to cut me any slack.

Here is the very first edition of The Richmond Free Press, which was published in 1992.
Here is the very first edition of The Richmond Free Press, which was published in 1992.

A Stalwart for Advocacy Journalism

When we talk about what it means to do advocacy journalism,  I will always point to Raymond Boone and his editorials as the best example how it’s done.

He was critical of many of those in power and even his rival newspaper publisher in town.

Boone was proudest of his effort to move the Free Press offices to a location that was within a few feet of the Media General headquarters (former owner of Richmond Times Dispatch) where the “corporate brass” for Times Dispatch worked.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a college intern at Media General’s now-defunct afternoon newspaper, The Richmond News Leader, in 1991.

In a story published last week in the Richmond Times Dispatch, the local daily newspaper in my hometown,  Tom Silvestri, publisher and president of the Times Dispatch, called Boone “a passionate publisher, a hard-charging editor, a frank editorial writer.”

Boone took strong stands on issues through the Free Press’ editorial pages.

To this day, I still receive copies of the weekly newspaper here in Alabama, via the U.S. mail.

Each edition is that good.

Sad, but Stronger

So tonight I’m saddened by the loss of such a strong voice for journalism that “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”

More than a decade ago, after finishing my Ph.D. at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication,  I had a chance to have lunch with Professor Boone and tell him about my plans to join the journalism faculty here at The University of Alabama.

So I’m glad he got a chance to see one of his students whose journalism career he helped launch become a journalism professor.

I’m a stronger writer, a better journalist and a better journalism professor because of what Raymond Boone did a quarter century ago.   He will be missed.

Should Journalism Schools Add Workplace Safety and Security To Their Curricular Offerings?

Wednesday’s scare for employees at WMAR-TV might raise a question about what we in journalism education can do to prepare students to thrive in instances where the security of their workplace is compromised, yet they have to cover THE BIG STORY, of which they are a part.

The TV News business is a very small business.  Even for those like me who have moved away from the day-to-day TV news production, Tuesday’s events at a Baltimore area television station where a suspect drove a stolen truck into the building gave all of us in broadcast journalism a scare.

Here at the University of Alabama,  within the last month we’ve just started broadcasts from our brand new Digital Media Center and we have to wonder not only is our building secure enough, but how much should we as journalism professors prepare our students to handle situations like what confronted our friends at WMAR-TV?

One of the first pictures of the staff in the Digital Media Center.
One of the first pictures of the staff in the Digital Media Center, which is located in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A decade ago when I worked as a news producer,  we had a disaster plan of action to COVER the biggest breaking news stories (a tornado, a plane crash, even a mass shooting).

But,  what happens when your OWN station becomes the story?    How do you balance staying calm while at the same time telling the news as it’s happening?


Tuesday’s events in the Baltimore market happened to occur during what’s commonly known as “sweeps.”   The month of May is one of the four times a year when TV stations are particularly concerned about their program offerings and performance.   So, the employees at Scripps-owned ABC affiliate had to realize that their competitors were going to be all of the story,

A truck rammed into the front of WMAR-TV ABC 2 in Baltimore Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC Washington.
A truck rammed into the front of WMAR-TV ABC 2 in Towson, MD Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NBC Washington.

I can remember back at my first station (in my hometown of Richmond, Va.), at WTVR-TV,  in early 1990s, a man fell from our antenna casting the station into a major local story that was covered by our competitors, WWBT NBC 12 and WRIC-TV 8, the ABC station.

WMAR is owned by the E. W. Scripps company.

Scripps Senior Vice President Brian Lawlor applauded the WMAR employees for following their disaster plan and handling Tuesday’s events very well.
“We actually practiced evacuations within the past three months, ” Lawlor said.

But,  is there a teachable moment for up-and-coming young broadcast journalists  in all of this?

Newsroom Intruders Not a New Thing

In 2006, a 50-year-old was arrested after a more than two-hour standoff at the Spanish language version of the Miami Herald.   In this case, the suspect actually worked as a contractor  with El Nuevo Herald, and had problems with paper’s position on Cuban emigres.’

Since then in 2012,  a disgruntled man broke into WIBW-TV, the CBS affiliate a Topeka, Kansas.

Decades ago, ironically at ANOTHER Scripps-owned television, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, a man stormed into the station then located downtown and took eight station employees hostage.  One of those employees, Elaine Green, who died recently, is remembered for her courage during the tense situation on October 15, 1980.

Perhaps it’s those stories of courage that we would be best served to share with our students as we urge them to have a plan for remaining calm in tense situations.

Unfortunately, workplace security breaches are a reality of the world we live in today.   It’s unfortunate that our friends at WMAR-TV had to be reminded of that this week.

It’s a good thing no one was hurt, but an even better thing that we can all be a little more intentional in our planning for disasters.





University of Alabama Student Film on Journey to Integration Wins National Award, Showcases Student Journalists’ Role Then and Now

Daniel J. Roth’s film, “Stepping Through,” on University of Alabama’s 50-year-old journey to integration has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists at the “Best Use of Multimedia.” It spots the role of UA’s student journalists in 1963 and 2013.

I suppose we should just be excited that UA Telecommunication and Film Student Daniel J. Roth beat out students at several of the nation’s top journalism schools to win the Society of Professional Journalists’ First National Student Award for “Best Use of Multimedia.”

The 17-minute film, “Stepping Through” was chosen as the National Winner in the Mark of Excellence Awards,  an annual recognition of the top student work in journalism.

It was chosen from among 11 other regional winners that included student work at the Missouri School of Journalism, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State and the Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland.

In "Stepping Through," Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they wrote they published their story about Alabama's segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.
In “Stepping Through,” Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they published their story about Alabama’s segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.

While SPJ has recognized online student work for several years, this is first time an award is being given specifically for the “Best Use of Multimedia.”

While I did not serve on the awards committee or as a judge this year,  I know there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to judge journalistic work that is produced online, given that most student publications have a website.

But,  my excitement is not about The University of Alabama being the first to win in this brand new category.

As both a multimedia journalism instructor of 11 years here at UA and an advocate for diversity, I am most excited that this award recognizes a film showing the role student journalists played in the integration of the University of Alabama 50 years ago in 1963 and in 2013 when the University’s Greek system was integrated.

In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.
In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.

Roth’s film includes extensive interviews with Hank Black, the editor-in-chief of The Crimson White from 1963-64, who spoke of his own personal role in encouraging students from the all-black Stillman College here in town to make the move that would make history.

His words today about showing his friend, the late Dr. James Hood (who Black knew as “Jimmy Hood”) around campus prompted the name of Roth’s film, “Stepping Through.”

“I went through this period of integration frankly shaking in my boots every day.  Yet there was nothing to do except go through it.  You have to just step through,” Black said.  “What I did was nothing compared to what Vivian and Jimmy did in facing their fears and stepping across that line into a world they didn’t know.”

Yet Black’s courage seems to have been repeated five decades later when Crimson White Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford published their award-winning story “The Final Barrier” on the still segregated Greek system.

“It was the right thing to do and it needed to be talked about, ” said Matt Ford.  “These barriers stopping change needed to be addressed,”

Roth’s film also included interviews with Melody Twilley-Zeidan, who was twice denied a chance to be in a traditionally white sorority and Wendell Hudson, the first black scholar athlete at the university.

The award for the best use of multimedia had an unintended impact in shining the light on the University’s diversity efforts and the students here both in the past and the present who are integrally involved in making the University of Alabama an inclusive campus.    I can think of so many other students who are not only concerned about diversity, but also producing media projects that are directed at effecting change.

We have  Daniel Roth to thank for capturing the University’s 50-year journey from integration to Greek system integration on film.  It’s exciting to know his film, which is our story as a University of Alabama family,  is being recognized as THE BEST student multimedia work in the nation this year.

Roth will be presented his award in September in Nashville at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Society of Professional  Journalists and Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Hats Off to the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Two-Time University of Alabama Alumna Joan McClane For Noteworthy Reporting

Those of us on the journalism faculty at The University of Alabama are smiling today as one of our two-time alums was part of a team named a finalist Monday for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 6.37.25 AMIt’s a pleasure to start the day by reading one of the top three examples of local reporting in all of journalism and to know it was produced, in part, by one of your former students.

Joan Garrett McClane completed her bachelor and master's degrees in journalism at The University of Alabama.
Joan Garrett McClane completed her bachelor and master’s degrees in journalism at The University of Alabama.

That’s what I am doing this morning as I check out the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, which we learned Monday was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in journalism.

It seems like only yesterday Joan Garrett (now Joan Garrett McClane) was sitting in my classes as part of the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama.

Now she’s spending nine months researching a story analyzing homicide cases and learning, among other things, that fewer than half of shooting suspects in Chattanooga are caught.

According to the story “Speak No Evil, ” 58 percent of open homicide and shooting investigations in Chattanooga are at dead ends because of witness silence.

This gives me a whole different impression of that community surrounded by mountains off Interstate 24.  You see it as you travel between Atlanta and Nashville or going from North Alabama up to Knoxville, Tenn.

The Pulitzer committee recognized    McClane, Todd South, Doug Strickland and Mary Helen Miller  “for using an array of journalistic tools to explore the “no-snitch” culture that helps perpetuate a cycle of violence in one of the most dangerous cities in the South.”

Today I recognize McClane, in particular, for developing the multimedia skill set as a student and putting it to work in way that brought national recognition to her news organization and great pride to those of us here in the journalism department at The University of Alabama.

Having done research at the Chattanooga newspaper several years ago, I know what a top-notch news operation they have there.  Now the world knows by another example of the work the staff there is producing.

I’m just excited that one of our graduates is among those producing such work.

Way to go Joan!


Celebrating Two Journalism Educators Who Advocated For Diversity

This week we remember both Chuck Stone and Marian Huttenstine as journalism educators and for they did to open the doors for others. Their work must continue.

It’s funny how important a single encounter with a person can be.

On Sunday, two retired journalism educators, with whom I had only a single brief encounter passed away.  But, regardless of how well I knew them personally, Marian Huttenstine and Chuck Stone are noteworthy models for the trails they blazed as journalism educators and for the diversity they brought to the media.

They both leave legacies for what it means to make “DIVERSITY” an action word.

Fortunately, two institutions where they taught– the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continue Stone and Huttenstine’s legacies today with initiatives aimed at high school students.

Much has been written about Chuck Stone, one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), of which I am a member.  He was our first national president.

But, many may not know about the Chuck Stone Program for Diversity in Education and Media, a summer workshop for rising high school senior that began in 2007.

Chuck Stone was the first president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Photo Courtesy: UNC
Chuck Stone was the first president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Photo Courtesy: UNC

Glimpse of Chuck Stone at Work

While I can’t call Mr. Stone a personal friend or even an acquaintance, I did have the occasion to see him at work at his office in the old Howell Hall (former site of the UNC School of Journalism) in the late 1990s.

At the time, I was just a visitor on the beautiful Chapel Hill campus checking out prospective Ph.D. programs in mass communication.   Seeing the legendary Chuck Stone as he worked with a UNC student in his office was a highlight of my visit.

Ironically, UNC also factored  into my path from working journalist to journalism professor through another person.

Dr. Huttenstine received her PhD. from the University of North Carolina.   She taught media law for many years here at University of Alabama, where a few years after she left, I ended up in my first full-time job as a faculty member.

Back in 2004, I had the good fortune of meeting her on the 20th anniversary of the Multicultural Journalism Workshop, which she started with then graduate student Marie Parsons, who went on to be the first director of the workshop and a member of the faculty.

Hundreds of students have come through this workshop that is now in its 31st year.  As a graduate of a similar Dow Jones News Fund workshop back in the 1980s,  I know firsthand what a difference it can make in a high school student’s career planning.

Huttenstine: Opening Doors for Female Administrators

The only photo I have of Marian Huttenstine was of her on our 25th anniversary program for the Multicultural Journalism Workshop.
The only photo I have of Marian Huttenstine (lower right) was of her on our 25th anniversary program for the Multicultural Journalism Workshop in 2008.

Even Stone and Huttenstine both passed away on Sunday, Dr. Huttenstine may not make the national headlines the way that Professor Stone has this week.   But, her impact through her creation of the Minority Journalism Workshop in 1984 had just as much impact as Stone’s as one of the founders of NABJ.

Huttenstine is credited with having the idea for MJW (now known as the “Multicultural Journalism Workshop”)   A decade ago, the editorial board of the Tuscaloosa News recognized the importance of such an idea, that has been sustained for three decades.

She’s also among those who opened the doors for women to eventually to serve as leaders of academic units like our own College of Communication and Information Sciences.  Long before the University of Alabama would have its first female president (Dr. Judy Bonner), there was the Capstone Women’s Network (CWN).

CWN was started in 1980 as one local effort here at University of Alabama to respond to the national call to expand and improve the opportunities for women to be in administrative decision-making posts.

After her stint on the faculty at the University of Alabama,  Huttenstine went on to become the first female chair of the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University.

Today incoming freshman in the MSU communication program can apply for the Marian Huttenstine Scholarship that was named in her honor.

More than once I’ve run into alumni from our program here at University of Alabama who vividly remember Huttenstine as a tough media law professor.

But, even if we don’t have those memories as students,  we can be students of hers and Stone’s way of marrying education with the ongoing effort to bring about diversity in the nation’s newsrooms and media outlets.     This week every journalism educator should remember them and re-commit ourselves as individuals to continue what they started as we do our part in preparing tomorrow’s journalists and mass communication professionals.

Marian and Chuck, we’ll miss you.  But, your work will continue!

NPR’s Michele Norris Teaches University of Alabama Community How To Talk About Race

On the same day as her Race Card Project was named a winner of the Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media, NPR’s Michele Norris shared her journey to get people to talk about race during the Frank Nix Lecture at the University of Alabama.

Michele Norris takes questions from University of Alabama students.
Michele Norris takes questions from University of Alabama students.

Hours after learning her “Race Card Project” was chosen for  one of journalism’s highest awards ,  National Public Radio’s Michele Norris shared her strategy for starting a dialogue on race on a campus that’s been talking a lot about race lately: The University of Alabama.

“I understand the grace of silence, but I also understand the power of history,”    Norris explained as she showed students how to open up the conversation about race, which she admits is hard at a place like the University of Alabama.

While trying to gauge Americans’ views on race,  Norris discovered those in her own family had been silent about a history in her family, some of which she shared this evening at the 17th Annual Frank A. Nix Lecture, sponsored by The Blackburn Institute.

“The most important thing I do as a journalist is not talking,” the former host of NPR’s All Things Considered explained.  “The most important thing I do is listen.”

Listening was the goal of an NPR project with NPR Morning Edition Host Steve Inskeep where the two journeyed to York, Pennsylvania to engage 16 voters on their ideas about race.

Listening to Voters

Tonight, she shared her strategy for getting those 16 voters to open up for a deeper, honest conversation.    “The York Project: Race and the 2008 Vote” won an Alfred Dupont Award in 2010.

She talked about the effect of a fireplace (Inskeep’s idea) and food (her idea).

“I don’t know if it was the fireplace or the lasagna, but people really did get comfortable,” she said.

Blackburn Institute Director Philip Westbrook assisted Michele Norris during a book signing following the Frank Nix Lecture on April 2 at University of Alabama.
Blackburn Institute Director Philip Westbrook assisted Michele Norris during a book signing following the Frank Nix Lecture on April 2 at University of Alabama.

Timing of UA Visit

Earlier today on CBS This Morning, the Peabody Board announced winners of the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards.

The Race Card Project was among those recognized for excellence in electronic media. The Awards will be presented at a ceremony in New York next month

The Peabody judges said those six-word submissions “became the basis of compelling reports about race, pride, prejudice and identity.”

Norris’ visit to the University of Alabama also comes only a few months after efforts on the campus to integrate its Greek system made national headlines, during a year the University celebrated the 50th anniversary of its integration.

She commended the current students who were instrumental in leading conversations about race on the campus.

“I did not want to be the person who’s always talking about race,” Norris recalled as she shared a series of what she called “left turns” that her journalism career took.  “But I couldn’t be happier.”

Journey of Left Turns

“It’s good to have plan, but write your plans in pencil,” she told the students.

The former ABC News correspondent and staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times has been called “one of the most respected voices in American journalism.”    In 2009 she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists.

Norris shared an excerpt from her book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, which came about after she learned some things about the experiences of her own family members involving race, some that those family members themselves were not willing to share.

Her father, who Norris called ” a son of Alabama”  was shot by a Birmingham police officer while trying to enter  The Pythian Temple, near the Alabama Theatre, on February 7, 1946.   He never told her about the incident.   Norris learned of it from her uncle and did her own investigation of the details by talking to other family members, some of whom were from Alabama.

“It’s really good to be back here in Alabama, ” Norris told the UA crowd.  “Alabama feels like home to me.”

Scan 6The Project Continues

As she closed her address tonight, Norris encouraged those in the sparse crowd of about 100 students, faculty and staff, to complete their six-word essays as the state of Alabama is under-represented among the  race cards that have been submitted, many through the Race Card Project Web site.

While Norris has not yet traveled outside the United States, those from at least 45 countries have posted their six-word sentence thoughts on the web site.

In the years since the project started, tens of thousands of 6-word essays about race have been submitted.




SIx Reasons to Get Rid of Black History Month

As we gather on Monday evening to review the concept of African American Heritage Month, here are some reasons to end the decades-old practice of celebrating black people’s achievements during the shortest month of the year.

I’ve been tapped to moderate a panel discussion at the University of Alabama this Monday, February 24  on the whole concept of African American History or African American Heritage Month.   And, I m just wondering what compelling arguments people still make in 2014 for continuing this annual observance.

Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson

As Wikipedia reminds us,  this whole thing started 88 YEARS AGO– with the celebration of Negro History Week, which was the second week of February designed to coincide with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.   We have Historian Carter G. Woodson to thank for that.     As a nation’s we’ve been celebrating the entire month of February as Black History month for 38 years since our nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

But, most people have come around to the understanding that the history of African Americans shouldn’t be relegated to the shortage month of the year– 28 days.

Here are my SIX REASONS to do away with Black History Month:

  1.  We can’t decide on whether it’s heritage or history that we’re celebrating.  (Some years we call African American Heritage Month)
  2. Having just a one-month observance de-emphasizes the history of black folks the other 11 months of the year.
  3. Most students need to be encouraged to see black history as American history.
  4. Black History Month tends to focus on the same small or limited cast of characters.
  5. We’re in a “post-racial” society– where we’ve moved beyond talking about black people as a distinct sub-population.
  6. The greatest event in black history– the election of President Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012– both happened in November, not February

I’m certain those from the organization that created Negro History Week,  The Association of African American Life and History (ASALH)  are going to disagree with those who might say do away with it.

President Obama still believes there’s a reason to celebrate it.

“Our nation joins you in celebrating African American history,” Obama said in a statement released last month in advance of the 88th Annual Black History Month Luncheon, which was held today in our nation’s capital.   “Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied.  This month we pay special tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, at the heart of this journey.”

On Monday evening, the Capstone Association of Black Journalists at the University of Alabama is assembling a group of journalists and scholars to tackle this issue through a mass media lens.   We’ll look at how the mass media have presented the observance even as we ask questions about its relevance to WBMA-TV reporter Larry Miller,  UA English Professor Cassie Smith,  and UA Telecommunication and Film Professor Kristin Warner.     The event begins at 7 p.m. in Reese Phifer Hall.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?   Is Black History Month or Negro History Month STILL needed in 2014?   If so, WHY,  if not, why not?

Sports Talk at Texas Tech Provides Chance to Meet Terrific Students, Faculty

Monday I gave a lunchtime lecture, “Researching Sports Media When You’re Not a Sports Fan,” in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

LUBBOCK, Texas–   Even though I am here for the 12th Engagement Scholarship Consortium on the Texas Tech campus this week, my visit to the new College of Media and Communication building for a lecture Monday is probably what I will remember most.

The Question-and-answer period was one of the best parts of my talk Monday at the Texas Tech College of Media and Communication.
The Question-and-answer period was one of the best parts of my talk Monday at the Texas Tech College of Media and Communication.was what I will remember the most.

My brown bag lecture,  “Researching Sports Media When You’re Not a Sports Fan,” drew a nice crowd of faculty and students interested in sports and media diversity, two topics that have claimed a lot of my scholarly attention this year.

I am so grateful to  Drs. Kent Wilkinson and Weiwu Zhang for inviting me over to talk about my research, even while I’m in town to dialogue on community engagement projects.

What great questions from the doctoral students in the audience Monday!   In the process, I learned about a new NFL rule on hiring that would inform my research.  Another student who graduated from an HBCU has become a new colleague.

And, I got a chance to catch up with two of our  Alabama grads– Glenn Cummins and Kevin Stoker while getting acquainted with a Florida graduate, Trent Seltzer, who chairs the Public Relations and Advertising unit here.  Did I mention, I also re-connected with a fellow UGA grad, Geoffrey Graybeal, who’s the media entrepreneurship guru at Texas Tech.

Even though Texas Tech is one of the original Big 12 schools,  there’s a whole lot of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) sown into the faculty just in the College of Media and Communication alone.

I will recap some of the points of my talk over on the Alabama SportsCom blog a little later.