Academic Representative Candidates Aim to Strengthen the Position

By Raymond Lucas Jr. 

Last summer, the National Association of Black Journalists’ academic representative position was nearly eliminated from the board. Now an election race is being held to fill the spot. 

Dr. Milbert Brown, a faculty member at Washington Adventist University, is running to keep his position on the board, but he must fend off two eager candidates in Russell Motley, a professor at Florida Memorial University, and Jarrad Henderson, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. 

Academic members will decide which candidate will represent them in online voting that ends on Aug. 7 at 5 p.m. ET 

Brown notes that he is the second person to hold the position and he touts his experience in high school journalism, college journalism, professional journalism and as a mentor for the student projects nine times. 

“I think we are at a critical juncture in NABJ history,” he said. “It is of paramount importance that the right academic representative is elected to lead educators to these structural teaching ambiguities and in this in part, this new coronavirus landscape.”

Motley teaches broadcast journalism at Florida Memorial University, where he started after a 20-year career as a local news anchor and reporter. He was the primary anchor for ABC 27 News in Tallahassee, Florida, and before that at CBS 47 News as an anchor and reporter. 

Motley serves on the board of directors for the South Florida Black Journalists Association and is a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Miami. 

“We want to make sure that academics are at the forefront,” he said. “Without the academics, we won’t have successful NABJ babies. And I want to make sure that our academic members are on task. They’re ahead of the curve. They know the trends, academic teaching trends. And I want to make sure that NABJ knows and respects who they are.” 

Henderson is a two-time Emmy award winner for his video producing work. He taught at Virginia Tech before accepting a position at USA Today, where he is a producer with the video franchises and special projects team. He credits NABJ as a key reason for his success today, from being an “NABJ baby” in the Student Multimedia Project to currently serving as the chair of the organization’s Visual Task Force.  

“Our student projects is something that we’ve been doing for a while. And every year it seems like it’s shrinking,” Henderson said. “One of the goals that I have is to help student projects maybe get some additional funding, some resources, so that we can expand that program to make sure our students benefit at their fullest potential.”

Henderson was honored as a Livingston Award for Young Journalists Excellence in National Reporting Finalist in 2017 and NABJ’s Salute to Excellence Award Winner for video in 2018. 

“There’s no question that without NABJ, without the student projects, I’m not doing the work that I am doing today,” said Henderson. “I think that I’m the person that is going to be able to amplify their voice, make sure that they are heard and respected within NABJ, and then also ultimately make sure that NABJ is a value-added proposition for them so that they feel as much of the organization as a full paid member would.” 

The candidates all agree that this position is crucial for NABJ’s board of directors. 

“We are the planters that help the seed grow,” Brown said. “So educators are important. They are the planters. They are the inspirational cultivators, cultivators of the seed, the seed being students.”

Henderson added, “I wish that as a professional, I would have known about some resources to help me understand the transition between being a full time professional and now being an academic in academia.”

Motley would like to see academic members get more involved in NABJ. 

“I want to make sure that when they become members, there’s value to their membership,” Motley said. “I want to make sure that it’s worth their while when it comes to conventions. They’re learning something and they’re able to take it back to their respective universities and, you know, flourish. I want them to be successful professors and faculty members.”

Henderson said the position should never have been in jeopardy.  

“I want to be that person that hopefully lives up to that potential,” he said, “make sure that this position doesn’t even have the question of whether it’s going away or not in the future, and help our members get the best practices, the resources, and the support that they need.

Voting ends at 5 p.m. on Aug. 7. View the candidates’ full track record here

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