By Carmen Glover
Former New York State Governor David Patterson drew cheers when he addressed attendees on the first day of a two-day event hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at the Associated Press on Friday, September 27. The former governor made a surprise appearance at the Media Institute for Media Professionals and Entrepreneurs event but he did not attend the Region I Conference, which was held on Saturday.
Joining the conversation about the Affordable Health Care Act, also called Obamacare, Patterson reminded the attendees that comprehensive healthcare efforts began with former New York State Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before drawing parallels to traces of racism in the healthcare battle. “Racism should never be coalesced with any intelligence,” he said. “The president got re-elected and this is the most wide-sweeping plan for healthcare. They should go right ahead and shut the government down on Tuesday because that’s what they did under former President Clinton and they then lost consecutive presidential elections.”
White House Director of African American Media Kevin Lewis moderated a panel about the healthcare law on Friday. The panelists included Dr Kemi Alli, chief medical officer of the Henry J. Austin Health Center, Director of External Affairs in the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Anton J. Gunn and Janaye Ingram, national executive director of the National Action Network (NAN). During Saturday’s event, Mark Thompson, host of his self-named show, moderated a similar panel. The Saturday panel featured Director of the Strategic Campaign Management Group, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Pamela Gentry, Gordon Johnson, president/CEO of Neighbor to Family and James McGriff, CEO of Peniel Solutions.
Friday’s event was devoted to the Media Institute for Media Professionals and Entrepreneurs. NABJ’s Associate Representative Dawn Roberts kept the sessions running smoothly. The first seminar on Friday was led by Sandra Charet, president of Charet and Associates, who shared tips about executive recruiting. “Knowing somebody is always the best way to get a job because many jobs are not advertised,” she said. Dawn Kelly, vice president of global communications at Prudential, in moderating the panel entitled “The Power of Partnerships,” encouraged mentoring and relationships. Lou Capozzi, president of PRSA Foundation, was blunt in addressing the dearth of black public relations executives: “For people of color the bar is higher,” he said. Kisha Barton, president of the New York Chapter of the National Black Public Relations Society said partnerships “are a benefit.”
Anticipation built to a crescendo when public relations maven and mental health advocate Terrie Williams strode to the podium to deliver Friday’s keynote address. Revealing that she suffered a nervous breakdown several years ago, Williams expressed concern that African-Americans are reluctant to seek treatment for mental health issues. She talked about public figures who recently committed suicide and appealed to the attendees to seek therapy to prevent burnout. “Be kind to everyone you meet because you never know what that person’s journey is,” she said while cautioning all to “choose your friends and colleagues wisely because people’s spirits are transferable.” Williams was swarmed by guests at the conclusion of her remarks.
Day two of the event was the Region I Conference, which was organized by Region I Director Sherlon Christie, who made opening remarks, followed by NABJ Executive Director Maurice Foster. Foster introduced NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Dedrick Russell, who led a day-long session for producers. Diane Parker of the Associated Press then led the audience into a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to NYABJ President/Professional Chapter of the Year winner Michael Feeney.
What then followed was a day packed with seminars and networking opportunities. Christopher Nelson, assignment editor of NBC News, moderated a panel on becoming an expert for broadcast shows. The panelists were Midwin Charles, attorney and legal commentator, Brandi Kellam, booking producer of MSNBC, Natalie McNeal, editor of TheFrugalista.com and Joi-Marie McKenzie, producer, ABC News/editor-in-chief of the TheFabEmpire.com. “Be consistent because consistency breeds credibility,’ Charles advised those aspiring to be viewed as experts. Sally Simms shared tips about using Google’s latest products, while Vince Hill, business/finance editor of CBS Radio Philadelphia/KYW Newsradio moderated a panel on covering business news which featured Lisa Dupree and Sharon Epperson of CNBC and Philana Patterson, news editor of the Associated Press. Patterson echoed Charet from Friday’s session, when sharing tips. “Network by getting to know people on a personal basis,” she said. “People hire people they know and like. Get to know people.” She also emphasized the importance of being diligent researchers in order to get scoops and break news.
There was a great deal of interest in the panels entitled “Crossing the Line From Journalism to PR,” “How to Start and Maintain a Successful Business” and “Tools to help you tap into your inner Journogeek.” Similarly, panels describing how to become managers and making a living in non-traditional media venues were well attended.
John Childress, president of Childress Business Consulting and D. Bernard Webster, president of Vanguarde Consulting Group, drew charts, recommended books and provided enormous insight as they discussed strategies for starting and maintaining a successful business. “Over 60 percent of the jobs lost in the recession are not coming back,” Childress said, while Webster explained that unless you are earning from your business venture “It’s a hobby, not a business.” Benet Wilson, social media/newsletter editor of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, joined Kiratiana Freelon, co-chair of NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force, in an interactive session where they reviewed various social media tools that can enhance the journalistic experience.
The two-day event was informative and timely. Attendees included founders Paul Brock and Allison Davis, whose contributions to NABJ were acknowledged with sustained applause. –OnPointPress.net