Monday, May 28, 2012

Do me a favor: thank a journalist

I still remember my first day working at The Birmingham News. I wore a peanut butter brown pants suit, heels (a little overdressed for a print journalist, I know) and was green as can be. When I walked into the building and got my badge that read REPORTER, I was on Cloud Nine.

All my life I wanted to be a writer and tell stories. They gave me that chance.

In the newsroom, one of the first things I spotted was a saying taped to an editor’s computer monitor that read, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Yikes, I thought, these people mean business.

During my tenure there, I got to work alongside some of the best editors and writers anywhere. They inspired me, pushed me and challenged me to have an unquenchable desire to be a great writer and seeker of the truth.

Within the community, the name “Birmingham News” carried a lot of weight. People allowed me in their homes, told me their funny stories, shared their tales of horror; they trusted me to be honest, thorough and give their story wings.

Fast forward to today: I am long gone from the News, but am still a big fan. Now, word is that in the fall they will print only three newspapers a week. Layoffs are inevitable. 

That makes me sad.

Call me old fashioned, but there is nothing like sitting down with a crisp broadsheet and flipping through the Local, LifeStyle and Entertainment sections. You clip the stories you like so you can read them again and again. You remember your favorite bylines and think of the writer as a friend.

I know the value of getting news instantly online, but what of the morning ritual of waking up, getting out of bed and heading out the door to the porch with an expectation of great stories?

Those pages represent the immense work that goes into making a great newspaper. Every day, while the city sleeps, passersby the News building can see the lights on and in the windows silhouettes of bobbing heads. Inside, reporters, editors and designers are putting something together that will reveal a greater truth about who we are as a community and where we are headed.

They are the ones who, in search of a story, racked up an ungodly amount of parking tickets so they can stick around City Hall and get “that interview,” risked life and limb, ran from dogs, dodged bullets, drove into shady areas, chased storms and politicians just to get the truth.

For those reporters, who are now trying to figure out Plan B, you are in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine how you must feel when you were born to be, and only want to be, a newspaper journalist.

So, on behalf of the community who will certainly miss the daily paper, thank you for all you have done. It won’t soon be forgotten.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Will black folks turn away from Obama?

When President Barack Obama announced his support of gay marriage last week, you could hear a collective sigh in much of the black community.

Moments after the story began to trend on the Internet, my inbox began to fill up with messages from loved ones lamenting, “It’s a sad day” and “Who am I supposed to vote for now?”

African Americans have historically been conservative Christians, which means that they consider gay marriage in violation of what the Bible deems acceptable by God. Pres. Obama’s words, for many, were like a kick in the gut. The man they adore – the one with the brilliant mind and rock star swag, the one who can belt out an Al Green tune and give speeches like Martin – had let them down.

This past Sunday, the effects were still being felt. At the church I attend, the pastor expressed his displeasure with the president’s announcement and the congregation signified with a chorus of “Amens.”

"I am disappointed, Mr. President," he said. "I am very disappointed."

But, is this enough to make African Americans shift their vote to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney?

I don’t think so.

Although gay marriage is a divisive, and for some, nonnegotiable issue, many African Americans would feel like race traitors if they voted against the president.

When Pres. Obama was elected in 2008, many African Americans wept. It was, for them, the fulfillment of a dream that seemed too big to even wish for in this country. He represented, and still represents, the hope of African Americans. 

On that election night, many blacks thought about their great-great-grandparents who had been slaves, and who could not have even fathomed such a historic event. It was the ultimate validation.

For that reason, I believe that many blacks would not want to be the one to vote against the black president and end the high of having a “brother” in the White House. Plus, Pres. Obama’s announcement comes months away from the actual election, and the future news cycles – that will surely be filled with crime reports, unemployment numbers, etc. – will likely cause the gay marriage issue to drop toward the bottom of the rung of what is important to a great majority of people.

Some African Americans are upset now, but I believe that when all is said and done, in November, they are still going to vote for Pres. Obama. What last week's announcement did do, however, was get his named added to many of their prayer lists.