NABJ President Tucker reflects on tenure, looks to future

Photo of NABJ President Dorothy Tucker

By Samantha Chery

NABJ Monitor

Dorothy Tucker checked off a number of her goals during her NABJ presidency despite challenges posed by the pandemic.

Tucker, a CBS 2 Chicago investigative reporter, bested Gregory Lee Jr. and Marlon A. Walker in 2019 to become NABJ’s 22nd president. Since then, she’s worked to connect NABJ members and ensure that Black journalists are being treated fairly in their newsrooms, among other objectives.

As she seeks reelection this year, her tenure is being scrutinized by NABJ voters, who must choose between her or NABJ-Philadelphia’s Manuel Smith to be president until 2023. If Tucker is successful, she would be the second person, after Sarah Glover, to hold two terms as NABJ president.

“I want to say thank you to our members for being patient, for being understanding [and] for continuing to engage with this organization,” Tucker said.

Before Tucker became president, she served as NABJ vice president of broadcast and director of Region V, a now-defunct region that covered South Central states. When Tucker first ran two years ago, her campaign promises included increasing training webinar offerings, creating a report card to grade media companies on their hiring, promotion, and retention of Black journalists, and offering more hardship scholarships.

Tucker speaks to an audience in Birmingham, Alabama

During Tucker’s presidency, the number of webinars tripled, which included sexual harassment sensitivity and LGBTQ+ sensitivity trainings.

“We’d have a webinar about networking and becoming the next manager and hundreds would flock to it,” Tucker said. “It showed me that despite the fact that we could not physically see each other, we still wanted to be engaged.”

In the wake of the pandemic, Tucker introduced the organization’s COVID-19 hardship relief grants, which provided no-strings-attached funds to NABJ members negatively affected financially. 

NABJ avoided a potential financial crisis through Tucker’s leadership as the association carefully transitioned from an in-person to its first-ever virtual convention in 2020. The money saved allowed the association to escape its years-long financial deficit.

“There were other organizations that did not survive, but we are financially stronger than ever before,” Tucker said. “We are the envy of the journalism world.”

Under Tucker’s leadership, the association also announced the launch of the NABJ Media Network in conjunction with the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The project is set to be NABJ’s first-ever digital news platform, which will allow Black journalists to cover Black communities through articles, videos, and photos. The network will debut after NABJ’s 2021 national convention.

Tucker’s tenure was also marked by watchdog advocacy. She publicly rebuked news organizations like CBS and ABC for racial discrimination and homophobia toward their Black employees. This resulted in NABJ meeting with newsroom leaders, dismissals of perpetrators, and the hiring of more Black journalists in top-level management positions.

“We have meeting after meeting after meeting, and then we follow up in another three months and say, ‘What’s going on?’” Tucker said. “Sometimes in the newsrooms, you’ll see somebody get promoted or a new hire. That’s because NABJ has been having some side conversations. So that is important to me that we gather those kind of facts, that we know what’s going on.”

If reelected, Tucker hopes to carry out the grading of media companies, start an NABJ membership drive and identify instances of pay inequity.

“It has been really an honor to have served during this time,” Tucker said.

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