ABOVE PHOTO: Kristen Welker, White House NBC News correspondent and keynote speaker
At this weekend’s Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists Awards Ceremony, the progress of women in media will be on full display.
By Denise Clay
Once upon a time, women in media, especially women of color, weren’t all that prevalent in the media.
In fact, seeing a woman of color out on the streets covering beats ranging from politics to sports, delivering the news from an anchor desk, or occupying the corner office while running a media corporation was such an unusual sight that if often wound up in a magazine like “Ebony” or “Jet.”
When the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists hands out its annual media awards on this weekend at WHYY Studios, the group of honorees, a group made up mostly of women, will show that while there’s still a long way to go in terms of women of color and their representation in the media, women are making their mark in Philadelphia’s media.
“This year’s honorees represent excellence in journalism and community service,” said Melony Roy, PABJ president. “We are proud to honor their distinguished work which has had a significant impact on African Americans in the Greater Philadelphia region.
This year’s honorees are:
*Tyree and the late Barbara Johnson, founders and publishers of the “Westside Weekly,“ are the winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Johnsons took their idea of starting a newspaper in West Philadelphia and turned it into a voice for the community.
*Sara Lomax-Reese, president and CEO of WURD Radio, is this year’s Trailblazer award winner. Lomax-Reese is being honored for her work creating and sustaining Black media, ranging from HealthQuest — the magazine focused on health issues impacting the Black community — to her current work growing WURD Radio, the Commonwealth’s only Black-owned talk radio station, as an outlet to express concern about issues germane to Black people.
*Sandra Clark, vice president of news and civic engagement at WHYY, is this year’s Impact Award winner. Clark believes that the community is enriched when given access to different voices and has reflected that belief in her commitment to hiring and nurturing journalists of color.
*Oshunbumi and the late Lois Fernandez, CEO and founder of Odunde 365 respectively, are the winners of this year’s PABJ Community Service award. Through the ODUNDE Festival, Lois and Bumi Fernandez have helped Philadelphians connect with African culture and legacy for the last 40 years. The event has grown from just the one-day festival to become a year-round slate of programming.
*Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, communications manager for City Councilwoman at-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown and founder of OnPoint Communications, is this year’s Media Professional of the Year. Brown’s public relations and community work shines a light on people, places and events that positively impact Black people while empowering and enlightening the public.
* Sofiya Ballin of the Philadelphia Media Network is this year’s Online Journalist of the Year. Ballin’s “Black History Untold” series gave viewers some insight into what African Americans have learned about African American history outside of the classroom. Using the voices of African Americans, these powerful stories provided us with valuable information not covered in textbooks and classrooms.
*Errin Haines Whack, Urban Affairs Reporter for the Associated Press is this year’s Print Journalist of the Year. Whack has tackled stories that impact Black people using angles that usually go unexplored in the majority media. Her work focuses on both the intersection of race, politics, culture and other issues of importance to African-Americans.
*NBC-10 reporter Aundrea Cline-Thomas is this year’s Broadcast Journalist of the Year. Through her reporting, Cline-Thomas focuses on issues that go beyond the usual headlines to discover and share nuanced stories that reflect and impact the Black community.
Having a class of honorees that spotlights this many women was a happy accident, said event co-chair Manuel McDonnell Smith, an assignment editor at NBC-10.
“While we celebrate diversity wherever it is, this year’s nominees reflect the amount of Black Girl Magic in this city,” Smith said. “Six of this year’s awardees are women. At a time when we’re talking about the sometimes inappropriate things that happen to women, it’s good to see that Philadelphia is a place where women are able to be the best they can be. It’s a cause for celebration.”
For example, Clark and Lomax-Reese — the Impact and Trailblazer winners respectively —are women who can determine the course of their stations through hiring and programming. And Odunde has succeeded in maintaining a long-time cultural festival when others haven’t, Smith said.
“I’m glad that the industry has evolved somewhat,” he said.
Co-hosted by Christie Ileto of 6ABC’s Action News and Quincy Harris, host of Fox-29’s “The Q Show,” the event promises to be an evening of fun and learning. This year’s keynote speaker will be Philadelphia native Kristen Welker, White House correspondent for NBC-News. The former NBC-10 reporter will share her experiences covering the presidential administrations of President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama.
The PABJ Awards Gala will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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