During “Meet the Press Day” at the McKeon Center for Creativity on Dec. 9, a diverse community of journalists gathered to share knowledge and insight about the journalism field. The program was sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists – Tulsa chapter in collaboration with TCC Connection. The first segment of the day featured Charity Barton, director of College Engagement at the University of Tulsa, and a certified TEDx speaker.
She spoke on the importance of media literacy and its impact on individuals. Barton asked the question, “How do you feel after consuming your daily media outlets?” Responses from the audience ranged from informed, drained, to angry. This is an example of the impact of media consumption, media’s effects, and its increase in the amount of content available today.
One particularly impactful moment was the writing portion of the workshop, wherein she asked the audience to define their identity through a series of questions as to “tell the story that you want to tell.”
Charity Barton concluded that “I believe that stories matter. Well-represented stories matter more; however, the stories you tell yourself matter most.”
The second workshop entitled “Diverse Voices in the Paint: BIPOC communities collaborating to better tell the stories” asked the question, “How we can further build on a culture of collaboration in bringing out the news and trends affecting black, indigenous, Latin, and other people of color?”
During this second segment of the workshops held at Tulsa Community College’s Center for Creativity at the Metro campus, the panelists, including cultured and reputable members of the media, were Rob Collins, executive director of Oklahoma Media Center; Angel Ellis, director of Mvskoke Media; Eli Grayson, host of Africans and Indians Table Talk, KBOB Radio; Hermione Malone, vice president for Strategy and Startups, American Journalism Project; and Carlos Moreno, freelance journalist and author.
Ellis shared how she was involved with a film, “Bad Press,” that highlights her advocacy work and was selected as the Sundance Special Jury Freedom of Expression Award recipient.
“…And I have been informed that the film is on a potential list for an Oscar, so we have a luminary here,” states moderator Gary Lee, managing editor of The Oklahoma Eagle. “Pray for us,” responded Ellis.
“Bad Press” shows the “repeal of free press and how it shaped the politics of our tribe and shaped the culture of our community. It is a beautiful story. Many members of our community were interviewed. The film reflects how the subject has impacted people. It went to Sundance in January of last year. I think it has won around 30 best documentary awards. The press around “Bad Press” is some of the best press I’ve ever seen,” explains Ellis.
Malone expanded upon the American Journalism Project, which promotes the use of non-profit journalism as “a way to respond to the increasing need for news and information across the country in a way that can be sustainable. Whenever we come into a market and conduct research and propose solutions, our belief is that these should be locally led and locally governed news organizations.” This represents an attempt by Malone to stabilize the local news ecosystem in Tulsa and possibly grow from it.
“In Tulsa, we wanted to do two things: We wanted to call out news organizations that had created a lot of trust and reliability. (And secondly) Include a new newsroom that fills some of those unmatched journalism needs and beat coverage. And it also seeks to create new resources in the community that everyone in the local news ecosystem can take advantage of,” says Malone.
The Community’s Voices
Moreno authored the book “Victory of Greenwood” and has worked with The Oklahoma Eagle in the past. Through these sources, he has successfully reported on and told the stories of members of Tulsa’s Black community.
“When I first moved to Tulsa in 1998, I asked the questions, Where’s the Asian community? Where’s the Latino community? Where’s the Vietnamese or Filipino community? Where’s the Black community?” Moreno explains how different cultures are reflected by stories told in the field of journalism. His book “Victory of Greenwood” highlights the victory of cultures in Tulsa rather than the traumatic aspects of the city, and the historic Greenwood District’s history, which includes the once metropolitan thoroughfare Black Wall Street.
Collins spoke on the importance of the Oklahoma Media Center and how OMC has helped tell the stories of people of different color communities. “A lot of the people on this panel know Brianna Bailey with The Frontier from the Collaborative Journalism Summit this year, they quoted her as saying “the ego is an enemy of good journalism,” and honestly, to collaborate, you must check it at the door and realize you can partner strategically to really reach audiences we haven’t reached well before.”
A People’s History
Grayson is known to tell the history of Black and Native people in Oklahoma, both personally and through his radio program. “My political affiliation with the Creek Nation is what I must understand.” Grayson continues to warn of the dangers and pitfalls of overusing the label indigenous and informs on the history of his tribes.
“When we think about being Creek or Cherokee, these are political societies. There is no such thing as the Cherokee race, none. There is, however, the Cherokee Nation, with a government, a constitution, a militia, and laws that they must follow. The same thing with the Creek Nation,” explains Grayson.
He states we are thinking of our past all wrong. It is not the nationality you are, but the political entity you are from that defines who you are. There are people in his tribe that are Filipino, Muslim, and that are Jewish.
This shows the dynamics and diversity within the Muscogee Creek nation. He continues, “We are still stuck on that the Cherokee are a race of people, instead of a political society.” Listen to Grayson’s radio station, KBOB radio, where he relates the cultural dynamics contained within the tribes and Oklahoma.
Members of the final panel “How to Get Your News In The News” featured moderator Dr. Jerry Goodwin, assistant professor for mass communication at Tulsa Community College, and president of the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists Pro Chapter, and founding member and treasurer of NABJ-Tulsa; Ross Johnson, principal, The Oklahoma Eagle; Quraysh Ali Lansana, creator and executive producer of Focus: Black America; Nehemiah Frank, founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times; Anne Brockman, editor for Tulsa People; and Betty Casey, editor for Tulsa Kids.
This panel addressed what to include in a press release from the editors representing their respective news organizations. What they are looking for when it comes to publishing events in their respective publications. And giving advice on developing and preparing an event for news coverage.
The Impact of Journalism
In her 30th year as editor of Tulsa Kids, Casey began the panel by recalling her experiences reporting on diverse communities. “I think I have always tried to focus on all kinds of parents – same-sex parents, parents of color, (and) parents in all different parts of the community. I feel that is something we need to do and be better at.”
Brockman spoke on her work as editor at the magazine Tulsa People: “Our mission is to educate, entertain, and enlighten our readers. Our readers are across the city. That has been my goal. We are a city magazine; we are supposed to be covering all of Tulsa. Since I have been editor, it is important that the pages of the magazine reflect Tulsa.”
On how his publication has affected and impacted the community, Frank spoke on how The Black Wall Street Times communicates with its readers to bring them news on leading stories.
“I read some dark stories from people in communities where they don’t have representation in the news. There is a huge disparity of Black media still throughout the country. Especially throughout the south, we wanted to create space for those living in those news deserts.” “Access is the new civil right” is the current motto of The Black Wall Street Times, he continued.
Lansana engaged the audience by explaining the lack of news coverage on issues affecting Black people in the BIPOC community. When searching for stories on diverse cultures in the mainstream media, he did not find much of anything, which was the motivation and inspiration for creating the Emmy Award winning show “Focus: Black America.” This program appears on the state’s National Public Radio (NPR) radio affiliates.
For example, five or six years ago, a Black man was handcuffed to a chair in the hallway of the Enid County Jail. He recounts that the story “didn’t get any real news coverage outside of the Enid newspaper. How does a human being handcuffed in a chair in a public hallway of a jailhouse die? Those are the kind of stories we are looking for,” concludes Lansana.
Johnson, principal of The Oklahoma Eagle, when asked how to contribute to the success of newspapers, said, “We move through a story in a manner in which pulls the reader closer to the success, failures, and challenges within the community itself. And that is a role that we will continue to play, and we will build our legacy on that role. One of our mottos that we have worked with is “People, Narrative, News.” We approach stories in that order. We recognize the true and whole humanity of our readers, of our audience. That is how we continue to move forward and are hopeful that that contribution will serve the community as well.”
The impact, says Johnson, “is the way and the depth of which, the degree to which we’ve impacted the lives of our readers, the degree by which we reveal their truths, the degree by which we uncover bias, the degree by which other persons can read about their challenges, recognize their challenges as their own, and collectively going about such a change. The true measure of our success is impact.”
These distinguished panelists provided inspiration for their listeners throughout “Meet the Press Day.” Numerous local broadcasters and newscasters were in attendance, such as the president of the NABJ and KOTV News on 6 reporter Autumn Bracey, along with News on 6 producer Ashley Jones.
This event provided local reporters, journalists, and others interested in the media with further invaluable experience in their field in the form of knowledge and the union of a community.