Black History becomes personal for me as journalist

Black History becomes  personal for me as journalist
February 05
00:00 2015
Donna Rogers Something to Talk About

Donna Rogers
to Talk

I have been aware of Black History for a long time. I grew up in a household in which my parents and siblings made me aware of it. When I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I was aware of it. I gravitated toward the Black Student Movement and its newspaper, Black Ink.

When I became a professional journalist, I was aware of it. I had to cover the events during the month.
But it really hit me in 2008 just how one particular part of black history affected me. That piece of history involves the 1968 Kerner Report. I was part of a McCormick Fellows team that developed a presentation for a national audience at the 2008 UNITY journalists’ convention. The forum included a DVD we produced.
President Lyndon B. Johnson established the Kerner Commission, named after its chairman, Gov. Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois, to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots nationwide and to provide recommendations for the future. The 11-member National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, as it is formally known, released its report on Feb. 29, 1968. The report is formally called  the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.
I say the Kerner Report is a part of black history because it looked at the race riots, which occurred in black communities, and determined that the lack of black media professionals working at “mainstream media” companies to cover the black community helped foster the riots, so to prevent them from happening again, more black media professionals should be hired.
The report lambasted federal and state governments for failed housing, education and social-service policies, Wikipedia says. The report also aimed some of its sharpest  ofcriticism at the mainstream media. “The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men’s eyes and white perspective.”
I am a black media professional. So, this opened up doors for media companies to even think about hiring me.
I have been recruited by several white-owned newspapers on the premise that I would bring diversity to their operations. It sounded like the same premise the Kerner Commission was operating on.
My career went merrily along until the economic bottom fell out of the “mainstream media.” Suddenly, it was not fashionable to recruit minorities. Who cared about diversity now?
Yet, I am still a black media professional.
At that point, I looked at another piece of black history: black newspapers.
I had learned in an African-American studies class about the Black Press. I still relish the textbook used. It led me into the world of black heroes and she-roes, such as Ida B. Wells, who had to print her newspaper while running for her life.
I often thought of what it would be like to work for a black newspaper. Well, now I get to find out.
The Chronicle has been around for 40 years. It was built on the principles of the Black Press. The early Black Press spoke out for the underserved and the rights of black people. They covered the riots and the news that affected a population that has been through so much just to have basic rights.
The Chronicle had not been founded in 1967, but if it had been, it would have covered the riots in Winston-Salem. The black community would have gotten the story.
The Chronicle is dedicated to upholding the values of the Black Press. I’m blessed to be a part of this Black History.
Donna Rogers is managing editor of The Chronicle. To see the DVD on the Kerner Report, go to and search for “Kerner Plus 40: Change or Challenge.”



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