2002-04-13 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms

In Memory of 'The North Star'

This week, I am going to push the envelope on freedom of the press and expression. There is a proverb that says you do not bite the hand that feeds you. Another says that you should never criticize the organization you work for. Boy, the targets of this column are not going to like what I have to say one bit, but that's too damn bad. While some people chose to be cowards and remain silent on this issue, I have no problem expressing my views and exposing the truth.

Last weekend, members of The Wave staff attended the annual New York Press Association Spring Convention. The event, which is held upstate in Saratoga Springs, provides an opportunity for many different publishers, general managers, reporters, photographers, art directors and graphic arts representatives to come together to discuss the newspaper industry and to dole out many coveted awards. It's like the Emmy's of the newspaper industry. I decided to go this year because I wanted to take part in some of the seminars being offered, and to experience "the thrill of athletic competition." I was in for a rude awakening.

As I sat back and took everything in, it became painfully obvious that something was not quite right. I was forced to ask myself a question. Out of the five to six hundred people who attended the convention, why were there only four African-Americans and one Asian representing local newspapers? What's up with that? Out of the twenty-something lecturers at the convention, why were there only three of color? Why was there not one person of color who received a top honor or honorable mention?  Am I to believe that these areas are so exclusive that NO people of color are part of these affluent newspapers and communities? If that is the case, then they need to "check" themselves. I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of Black folks, and other people of color, with some dough up in those areas, and I'm just as sure that some are publishers, general managers, reporters, photographers and graphics people. If this is not the case, then again, they need to check themselves because they're giving new meaning to the name "Hicksville."

I've done some checking on the NYPA conventions, and I guess I should give them some type of credit. I was informed that two years ago…there was not one person of color, within the industry, at the convention! That is simply amazing to me. I am now investigating how many people of color have actually won the "Rookie Reporter of the Year", "Writer of the Year" and "Columnist of the Year" categories. I'll probably need therapy after reading the stats.

I would like to say that it was an enjoyable experience for the most part, but the feeling that certain people were excluded prevent me from doing so. I just have a problem with exclusion of any type, and while the focus of this article is people of color, the sentiments extend to people of different religions and sexual preferences as well.

I hope the NYPA takes a hard look at what I have presented. It would serve them well to investigate this ongoing situation. This "scarcity" is bad enough in the larger forms of media, and there is definitely no place for it in the smaller mediums like community newspapers.

See you next week!


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