Amid increased racial reckoning around the country, the importance of diverse newsrooms and journalists of color are at the forefront of discussions about the media again.
With the help of the Carolina Association of Black Journalists and the newly-founded UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, students at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media are making strides in the industry before they even leave Carolina.
The organizations, which are campus chapters of national professional development organizations for journalists of color, host events and programming geared toward developing students’ professional networks within the industry, building community and increasing representation in the media.
“Our quote is, ‘Without diversity, there is no excellence,’ and I think that really embodies what our mission is,” said CABJ Co-President Samaria Parker, a senior broadcast journalism and communications double major. “It’s just to create a space where people can be trained and given an opportunity to go out and diversify the industry further after they leave here.”
Parker’s co-president, Landon Bost, a senior visual communication and Hispanic linguistics double major, first joined CABJ toward the end of his first year at Carolina. He quickly found a community of Black storytellers who helped him feel at home at UNC Hussman.
“The community aspect of CABJ is really what I love most about it,” Bost said. “Being a Black journalist, you’re going to need allies. You really need people in your corner. That’s what CABJ has really meant for me: having people there for me that will have my back and support me.”
Trevy McDonald, an associate professor and the director of diversity, equity and inclusion, is the group’s faculty advisor.
While CABJ has been around at Carolina for 30 years, the UNC-Chapel Hill NAHJ chapter just launched at the Hussman this year.
Hussman juniors Angelica Edwards and Julian Berger were motivated to start the campus organization after noticing a lack of Hispanic representation within the school.
“To cover Hispanic issues, there is so much you need to learn from your own people to do that,” Edwards said. “There are specific issues in our communities that aren’t necessarily addressed in classes, like how to cover immigration issues and DACA, things that are pertinent to our communities.”
During his first year at Carolina, Berger joined the national NAHJ organization and knew that he wanted to bring the organization to campus. This summer, he and Edwards made that dream a reality. Associate Professor Paul Cuadros serves as the student organization’s inaugural faculty advisor.
“We spent this whole summer planning and getting documents ready for us to apply to become a chapter. We reached out to so many people and got an amazing response,” Berger said. “This is definitely something that Hussman needs because we need more representation. We need for Hispanics to have a voice in the school.”
With all undergraduate courses shifting to remote instruction, CABJ and the Carolina chapter of NAHJ know that things will look different this semester, but the groups are committed to continuing their programming and traditions of excellence by hosting virtual networking and social events throughout the semester.
With current events, such as COVID-19 and protests against racial violence, both organizations stress the importance of diversity and increased representation in newsrooms as a means of understanding the full story that a journalist covers.
“What’s seen in the media shapes the way society thinks,” Parker said. “It can be very dangerous when it’s not put in the hands that allows everyone to have a voice and leaves no one unheard.”