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HS Journalists @ NABJ

Check out work done by area high school students learning new skills at JSHOP, NABJ’s High School Journalism Workshop, at the 37th Annunal NABJ Convention in New Orleans. JSHOP students work with journalism professionals to craft articles, video and radio stories, web content and learn the fundamentals of journalism. The publish their work at highschool.nabjconvention.org

Video: Homeless Shelter Gets Last-minute Reprieve


BY Derrick Q. Lewis
NABJ Monitor

The New Orleans Mission was close to shutting down before getting a last-minute
save from the federal government.

The Mission, the largest private service provider for the homeless in the city, is now armed with money, and a new director who says he’s in a unique direction to lead them.

Despite being on the job for only two weeks, Executive Director David Bottner said he knows he’s in the right place “because God told him so.”

“He said wait,” Bottner said. “So I waited about six months. And then the Lord just opened this
opportunity to me and I’m walking in it now.”

The New Orleans Mission serves nearly 200 people a day, but almost closed its doors because of a lack of funding.

The Mission serves food and offers shelter, counseling and spiritual guidance to help
heal broken men, a goal that hits home for Bottner.

“Cocaine was a big part of my life, alcohol, but there wasn’t much that I wouldn’t try. Ecstasy was something that I dabbled with,” he said.

He said God turned his life around. Nowadays, he is determined to help others.

“It helps me to have a responsibility, it helps me to stay focus and have stability,” he said.

Lee Faces Problems, Looks Forward

NABJ President Greg Lee addresses board members at a meeting in New Orleans. (Tiffany L. Williams/NABJ Monitor)

By Justin Madden and Kelcie C. McCrae
NABJ Monitor

The last time NABJ was in New Orleans, in 1983, Greg Lee was in elementary school. Now Lee is celebrating his first year as NABJ president in his hometown.

“It has an emotional backdrop – family and professional,” Lee said.

The 38-year-old New Orleans native joined NABJ as a student at Xavier University. Soon, he was working as a copy editor at the Times-Picayune, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He rose quickly through the national organization’s ranks as a founder of the Young Black Journalists’ Task Force and a four-term chairman of the Sports Task Force. In 1999, he joined the national board and lost an election for treasurer in 2003, but bounced back by winning the office in 2007. In 2011, he was elected NABJ’s 19th president – one of the youngest in the organization’s history.

Lee faced a number of issues after taking office. The top issue, undoubtedly, was NABJ’s relationship with UNITY, an organization created in the 1990s initially to push for inclusion of all people of color – blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans – in newsrooms across the country. Last summer, Lee supported the NABJ board’s decision to re-evaluate its relationship with UNITY. Conflict over financial management and a name change has since moved NABJ’s leaders to recommend severing ties with the mega-group.

“Fundamentally, UNITY has strayed from its mission. UNITY has become a fundraising machine only. But no one is being honest to express that sentiment,” Lee said. Earlier this week, Joanna Hernandez, president of UNITY, told The Monitor, “We still have the mission to promote diversity in newsrooms. All we have done is expanded it.”

Lee has dealt with another issue that’s at the core of NABJ’s mission: astonishing attrition of nearly 1,000 black journalists in the last decade – more than any other minority journalist group. Lee has traveled the country, meeting with news executives to explain why diversity makes good business sense at a time when more than one-third of the country’s population is non-white.

“It is disheartening to see these newsrooms do not reflect the society that we walk every day,” Lee said in statement press release.

Observers say Lee is financially savvy, given his previous work as NABJ treasurer.
“Greg has a lot of experience in the business aspect of NABJ. He’s fiscally conscious,” said Maurice Foster, NABJ’s executive director.

One founder, Allison Davis, was hesitant to give Lee a grade.
“He unfortunately faced a lot of things he inherited economically. There was a huge shift in the industry, the move out of UNITY. He had no real control over it,” she said.
Nevertheless, Lee gives himself a B and said there are parts of the job he must master.
“It’s a hard job. I knew that when I got in. But that’s OK,” Lee said.

The president’s work extends beyond the association. Earlier this week, Lee spent hours rebuilding a New Orleans home and furnishing it during the NABJ Day of Service with the support of Home Depot. On Saturday, he will read to local children. He is also working on another project: the online NABJ Job Portal.

Some called him passionate, energetic, and a leader who wants the best for NABJ.
“The bottom line for Greg has always been to advocate for and to watch out for NABJ. Greg did that. He’s doing it, and I know he’ll keep doing it,” former NABJ President Will Sutton said.

Much of Lee’s success will depend on his ability to guide NABJ in providing intensive training for journalists, including entrepreneurs, at different career stages. He must protect NABJ’s stability at a time when news organizations are cutting back on sponsorships – and diversity is often an afterthought. NABJ’s mission to make sure black voices are at the table when news coverage is shaped has never been more important, and Lee is charged with leading the organization in addressing this critical task.

Say Bonjour to the French Quarter

[flagallery gid=8 skin=lightgrey name=NOLA]
By Azania Briggs
NABJ Monitor

Most tourists try to avoid the far end of the French Quarter because it is a long walk from many of the hotels that line Canal Street just like the palm trees that give the area a tropical touch.

Instead visitors, and some locals, opt to stay on the outskirts or party down on Bourbon St. Whenever I travel to a new place I make it a mission to venture through the area like a local, so I won’t miss out on what the city has to offer. Here’s a guide on how to get from the front end of the French Quarter to the back end where the “Local’s Bourbon Street” thrives.

If you’re on the lookout for something other than a tourist trap or a native in need of something new, take North Peters Street down to the French Quarter. Right on the corner of North Peters and Canal Streets is the Insectarium located in the 170-year-old U.S. Customs House. The museum (located at 423 Canal St.) is one of America’s largest that’s all about bugs. There you will discover various types of insects from praying mantises to grasshoppers, and if you’re lucky you might even get a chance to taste one. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful butterfly garden that is full of exotic butterflies, flowers and cocoons.

Two blocks down is Felipe’s Taqueria, a Mexican made-to-order venue that goes above and beyond to offer fresh and fast food at an affordable price. At Felipe’s (located at 301 North Peters St.) you won’t have to worry about mixed up orders or vengeful waiters because you can see everything that is going into your meal. Some menu items are low as $2, and everything is under $8 for those who want to enjoy New Orleans without breaking the bank. The burritos are huge, so for about $5 the meal can be split between two people.

While you continue traveling down North Peters Street you’ll notice how it merges with another street called Decatur. This is where the adventure begins as you head towards the pearl of the oyster. Not far from the neutral ground, that serves as a foundation for Jean Baptiste LeMoyne de Bienville monument, is Peaches Records- a local’s favorite for music and all things New Orleans (located at 408 Decatur St). The two story building is an old school jewel that will tickle the fancy of any crate digger or avid music lover. There, you can find a wide range of music including zydeco, bounce and brass band. The store is great place to find vintage LPs, local clothing lines, and even children’s books.

The St. Louis Cathedral is one of the few New Orleans landmarks visible from either side of the river and it overlooks the Jackson Square, a roundabout garden and park. Next to the Cathedral are the Cabildo and Presbytere, Louisiana State Museums are open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The Square is also surrounded by musicians, fortune tellers, and artists who are eager to offer their services to passersby. Right across the street from Jackson Square is one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans that you’ll probably smell before you see it – Café Du Monde. Since 1862 the company has served beignets that are square, deep-fried doughnuts covered with powdered sugar. The frozen café au lait is a popular drink that goes perfectly with a side order of hot beignets.

Further down on the 1100 block of Decatur Street is where you’ll find Angeli’s, a superb Italian restaurant with angelic-inspired art covering the walls. Angeli on Decatur (located at 1141 Decatur St.) serves a variety of pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers, including the garlic cheese bread big enough to share between two people. The restaurant also serves a number of specialty pizzas like the Angeli’s Special that comes loaded with roasted garlic, eggplant, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and kalamata olives. The art covered walls are great to look at while you’re waiting on your food to arrive.

Two blocks down, Decatur intersects with Esplanade avenue and if you cross the street you’ll run into the last portion of Decatur street before it merges into Frenchmen Street. This is where the locals come out to party or grab a bite to eat in order to get away from the tourist trap called Bourbon Street. On Frenchmen there are a number of venues and entertainment alleys. For music there’s the Blue Nile, the Maison, Snug Harbor and Vaso that showcase live music and great food every night. At Mona’s Café and Deli you’ll discover delicious Mediterranean like falafel, hummus, tabouleh. The Praline Connection started as a delivery service for women who were too busy to prepare food, but now it offers its Cajun-creole style food to everyone. Don’t forget to grab a praline, New Orleans signature candy made from sugar, milk and pecans. Café Negril is a cozy, colorful music venue that has a taco bar in the back, but tacos aren’t the only thing they serve. There you can find gorditas, burritos, and quesadillas all for less than $10.

NABJ Finances Looking Up

NABJ Treasurer Keith Reed presents his report to board members. (Tiffany L. Williams/NABJ Monitor)


By Justin Madden
NABJ Monitor

NABJ’s finances are stable for the third consecutive year and the organization’s leaders are optimistic that this year’s host city will bring in a huge profit.

NABJ President Greg Lee said the board expects to bring in a profit between $900,000 and $1 million at the close of this year’s convention in New Orleans.

“We will profit. There is no doubt that this will be a success,” Lee said.

Some of the association’s worst financial troubles date back to 2005 during the Atlanta convention, which left the organization in the red. NABJ officials also reported a deficit in 2006. Organization leaders said financial issues stemmed from a drop in membership and overspending.
NABJ, the largest minority journalist group, began to turn itself around in 2010, reporting a surplus of $419,972.

NABJ treasurer Keith Reed presented the board with a report that showed the group ended the first quarter of 2012 more profitable than in the first quarter of 2011. Reed’s report said NABJ’s assets were nearly $1.6 million as of March 31, a 31.8 percent increase over last year’s fiscal quarter.

Reed said the June date for this year’s convention contributed to a financial boost for the organization, as sponsorship dollars tied to the convention came in earlier than they might have with a July or August meeting date.

Reed’s report said the financial gain was “both a good thing and a challenge for NABJ.” He said the organization would have to keep a closer watch on spending.

“We have 14 months until our next convention, which means we must raise significant revenues outside of our convention in the second half of this year, as well as control spending, in order to remain solvent into early 2013,” Reed said.

Other highlights in the report included an outstanding loan and a need to develop financial policies to govern operations and reduce expenses.
Reed said in an email that NABJ took out a $250,000 loan from the organization’s investment account; $206,000 is owed on that loan.

Lee credited a change in strategy for fostering the group’s financial success.

“Nip and tuck. It’s a simple philosophy: Don’t spend money we don’t have,” he said. “If an event is not sponsored then we can’t have it.”

With 65 percent of the organization’s revenue coming from yearly conventions, group officials said they have started hosting inexpensive fundraising programs to offset the budget between the 2012 and 2013 conventions. Reed’s report showed that a health program in the first half of the year raised more than $70,000.
Re-establishing credit has also been extremely important for the organization, Reed said.

“Every business has credit established to float your cost,” he said. “If your company is on ‘cash and carry,’ that means whatever I pay for I have to pay you. We were in that situation for a few years.”

Earlier this year, the association was approved for a $155,000 line of credit with Bank of America. The president, treasurer and executive director each have credit cards with a $10,000 line of credit to pay for organizational expenses.

The organization had lost its credit due to overspending on credit cards and not having the funds to pay it back. In 2007, the organization had an outstanding credit card debt of $90,000.

In an effort to sustain the group’s financial stability, Lee plans to create a board of trustees to keep an eye on its finances. The board would consist of six members, including two lifetime members, who would serve staggered terms.

“The Board of Trustees will act as the business side of NABJ, and help NABJ maximize its financial success.” Lee said.

NABJ has projected a $2.9 million in revenue and $2.2 million in expenses for 2012, Reed said.

Moving forward, planning will be a key component in preserving its finances, Reed said. The NABJ board still faces a major decision: finding a city for its 2014 convention. New Orleans was originally scheduled to host the 2014 convention, but got bumped up after NABJ decided to leave UNITY, which has its convention in August in Las Vegas.

NABJ has contracts with Orlando for 2013 and Minneapolis for 2015.

Lee said the board has been negotiating with officials in Houston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Boston. The organization’s main concern is making sure the 2014 convention is in a prime location and affordable for members. Lee said a decision could come in the next seven to 10 days.

NABJ officials are hoping to continue the organization’s success after making a profit from conventions in San Diego, Philadelphia and, more than likely, New Orleans.

“I expect NABJ to have continued growth, however, we must acknowledge the challenges that a five-day event has on our membership,” Lee said. “We must develop a model that balances the current economic realities. I am sure that NABJ will meet that challenge,” Lee said.

WhoDat Celebrate Go Skating Day

[flagallery gid=7 name=Gallery]

Story and photos by Azania Briggs
NABJ Monitor

It’s normal to see a few skateboarders here and there in downtown New Orleans, but nearly 100 skateboarders gathered for Go Skating Day, an annual worldwide event celebrated on June 21.

Started by the International Association of Skateboard Companies, Go Skating Day gives skateboarders the freedom to forget about their obligations and hop on their boards for a cruise around the city or skate park.

In honor of the event, Just One Board, the Tony Hawk Foundation, the Make It Right Foundation, Humidity Skate Shop and Urban 9 Skateshop donated 1,000 skateboards to New Orleans youth.

“When I was 13, all it took was just one board to show me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Josh Friedberg, IASC executive director, said at the board giveaway in New Orleans. “The opportunity to give used equipment a second life and thousands of kids a chance to experience the world through skateboarding at the same time is a beautiful thing.”

The event started at Humidity Skate Shop ,515 Dumaine St. and continued into City Hall, a diner on Claiborne Avenue and the Lower Ninth Ward Village. The first eco-skate park in New Orleans broke ground at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, which will open Aug. 29, on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. At each location the best skaters competed for prizes. The event ended at Canal Street where skateboarders and spectators gathered in acknowledgement of the international celebration.

“Go skateboarding day started as a way to get more kids and more people involved with skateboarding,” Patrick Melon a local videographer and representative of Humidity Skate Shop, said. “It is held on the 21st of June each year. The reason being is because that falls upon the summer equinox, the longest day of the year. There are exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, giving optimum amount of time for skateboarding.”

He added that in recent years the skate scene in New Orleans has grown with hundreds of kids in the city attempting the sport.

Bri Miller, who has been skating for as long as she can remember, loves being a part of the skateboarding community, despite the challenges she experiences as a female skateboarder.

“I have to face falling and getting injured because all of the skaters that’s around,” Miller said. But she said the pros outweigh the cons of her favorite hobby.

“I get to come out dressed just colorful and be with every skater that’s around, the best of the best of the skaters,” she said. “It’s just a great experience to be out.”

A noticeable police presence made sure to keep the skateboarders moving. After the large group descended onto the Riverwalk, they were chased out by a police officer armed with a can of mace and a pair of handcuffs. Subsequently, they spilled onto Canal Street and began skateboarding along the street and sidewalks, only to be dispersed by loud sirens from a New Orleans Police Department vehicle.

Although some pedestrians flinched and scurried away from the skateboarders zipping along the sidewalk, others felt that constructing a designated area for events like Go Skating Day would be futile.

“To be honest with you, I don’t even think they’d use skate parks if there were skate parks,” Mario Boone, a journalist in Asheville, N.C., said, who came to New Orleans to attend the 37 annual NABJ Convention. “They’re teenagers so that’s to be expected, but if they’re just having fun what’s the big deal? It’s annoying to me as a person trying to walk down the sidewalk and almost get run over. But I was a teenager too, one time, so I’m not upset about it.”

Tryfe Kennedy of Aquaforce, a local New Orleans hip hop group felt they were being harassed for doing something they love.

“Skateboarding helped save my life because I was going down the wrong path, but I started skateboarding to chill out,” he said. “I could have been in the judicial system or trapping [selling drugs] in the streets.”

Broadcast Media Make Small Gains in Diversity

By Marissa Evans, Lance Dixon, Regina Graham
NABJ Monitor

Media companies saw lukewarm progress this year when it came to diversifying news management, according to the NABJ Diversity Census report released Friday.

The report, composed by the organization’s Broadcast Task Force, tracked newsroom managers at 68 television stations owned by four national media companies: Raycom Media, Allbritton Communications Company, Journal Broadcast Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“We’re the only organization that does this kind of research,” said Bob Butler, NABJ Vice-President of Broadcast. “My hope is that we reach every news station in the country.”

According to the report, the four companies employ 350 men and women in the positions of general manager, news director, assistant news director, managing editor, assignment manager, executive producer or web manager. Only 12 percent of these were people of color. Twenty-eight were black, six were Latino, three Asian American and one Native American.

The report comes as U.S. Census data reflects that nearly one-third of the country’s population is non-white.

“It is disheartening to see these newsrooms do not reflect the society that we walk everyday,” NABJ President Greg Lee Jr. said in a statement.

Raycom did the best this year with 16 percent of its news management being people of color.

Susana Schuler, vice president of news at Raycom said she was excited about the progress the company has been making with its diversity outreach. She said Raycom is at NABJ this year to continue recruitment for its various positions.

“Even in markets where we may not yet reflect the diversity in the management ranks, we do reflect the diversity in the newsroom, covering the news, presenting the news and in many cases producing the news,” Schuler said.

Sinclair Broadcast Group did the worst, according to the report, with only three of 99 news managers being people of color.

Sinclair’s employment manager, Sharon Pickeral, said there’s little turnover for news management positions. She said Sinclair works with NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and other media organizations to spread the word about job openings but it ultimately comes down to who’s applying.

“We look at every single resume,” she said. “We hire based on the best resumes we’re getting.”

Sinclair has been coming to the NABJ convention for three years but was unaware of the organization’s Broadcast Task Force, or Student Projects, both of which the company would like to work with in the near future, she said.

“We want to become as involved as we can,” Pickeral said.

TIME magazine received NABJ’s Thumbs Down Award. The award is typically given to news entities for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting, commentary, photography or a cartoon at odds with the goals of the organization. The newsmagazine received the award in part for failing to include identifiable African-Americans in its special issue commemorating the Sept. 11, 2011 , terrorist attacks. The news magazine’s staff has become younger and more ethnically diverse, but that shift has failed to include black writers and editors.

Jack White, the first black columnist for TIME, said he understands the downsizing happening in magazines but doesn’t know how publications plan to cover the world without having a diverse staff to do it.

“It’s a sad moment that they would merit this kind of negative initiative,” White said. “It’s going to take continuous prodding from organizations like NABJ. You’ve got to remind them that diversity is a priority.”

Don’t hate, celebrate


By Lance Dixon
NABJ Monitor

Lance Dixon

Miami Heat forward LeBron James, who has faced intense media attention and scrutiny, has finally been crowned as an NBA champion. “King James” has been criticized since

“The Decision” in 2010, making the Heat a villain role for the past two seasons.
But how can you hate the most gifted athlete in the game?

James put on a historic performance averaging 30.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game in the 2012 playoffs—averages matched only by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson.
Prior to James’s departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers he was a celebrated two-time league MVP who had averaged no fewer than 20 points a game in seven seasons and delivered the Cavs to five straight playoffs appearances. These games were capped by appearance at the NBA Finals in 2009, the first in team history.

Media and fans seem to have a short memory in regard to James; he brought sports success to a city that hadn’t contended for a title in any sport in more than a decade. It’s time for people to look at the totality of James’ career and celebrate his accomplishments and not focus on one horrible public relations move.

James is not the first athlete, nor will he be the last, to leave a team after many years. Some athletes in the 1990s did the same in search of success. Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, left the Portland Trail Blazers after 11 seasons and fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, left the Philadelphia 76ers after eight seasons.

More recently, the Boston Celtics won the NBA title with the “Big 3” composed of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and their decision was not as heavily scrutinized as James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. James is only polarized because of his success, and that’s counter-intuitive.

Why bash a man who has accomplished so much? The only thing he’s guilty of is poor execution of a decision hundreds of athletes, star and scrub alike, have made.
Now that the king has officially backed up his title—don’t hate, celebrate.

LeBron’s Arrogance Colors His Success


By Brooke Kelly
NABJ Monitor

Brooke Kelly

I wouldn’t call myself a “(Miami) Heat hater,” but I definitely joined those who were somewhat disappointed Thursday after the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship and LeBron James received the Most Valuable Player award.

Maybe my feelings will change in the near future. There is a part of me that is kind of happy for the team.

After the Heat beat the Boston Celtics to win the Eastern Conference championship, I watched LeBron respectfully talk to the Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. Last night, after the Game Five win against Oklahoma, I heard James say he had to humble himself after losing last year in the NBA Finals. The after-game commentators seemed to agree that since last year’s championship loss to the Dallas Mavericks, a lot has changed with the Heat and LeBron.

Even though James has made efforts to be more humble, I can’t get beyond his past.

My irritation with the James goes beyond the overblown nature of “The Decision,” when LeBron publicly announced he would be “taking his talents to South Beach.”

My dislike for James dates back to 2009 when he visited my hometown, Jackson, Miss. James visited a youth summer camp in Jackson that was hosted by then teammate Mo Williams. James angered many of those in attendance. He showed up extremely late and with a security detail fit for President Obama. He refused to sign autographs and was rude to some of the children whose families spent their money to be a part of the event.

Do a Google search on “James, not yet fit to be ‘king’” by former WLBT-TV reporter Scott LaPeer and you can read a blog about it.

The incident doesn’t faze some people in Jackson; they’ve forgiven him for his rudeness. But others, like me, were left with an impression that’s hard to shake.

James is not the only professional athlete — or, for that matter, Miami Heat player — whom have not cared for. He is not the only one who I thought of as arrogant. And maybe James is a nice guy.

But first impressions are lasting, and though I applaud the determination and teamwork shown by the Miami Heat, it’s probably highly unlikely that I will ever be a part of Heat Nation. But I don’t consider that hating.