By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Thousands of journalists, media executives, educators, communications and marketing professionals, students and others gather in Birmingham this week for the 2023 National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair.
This is the first time Birmingham has been a location for the national convention which will feature more than 200 sessions, panels and workshops; nearly 90 career fair companies/organizations and 17 breakfasts, luncheons and receptions.
The gathering, August 2-6 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), comes during the 60th year commemoration of the Civil Rights Marches in the city and will attract industry leaders, innovators, and influencers in media and other fields.
“Being in the company of such accomplished newsmen and women is truly unique and we’re not just meeting to talk about journalism,” said George Daniels, Ph.D., an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. “We’re also talking about the issues and advocacy that we all have to do whether in the newsroom or the classroom. There are always newsmakers who are on the agenda and on the record. Much has been written about the value of seeing those who look like you who do the work that you do in the newsroom every day.”
Visitors arrive in a city with a devotion to social justice, a celebrated food and arts scene, and a commitment to progressive business and entrepreneurship. The convention will highlight a city with attractions from Ruffner Mountain to Railroad Park to the Vulcan Trail at the foot of Vulcan Park and Museum, and the downtown Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which played a critical role in the struggle for equality and the Civil Rights Movement.
The city also has a rich journalism history that includes Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, Sr., 98, a Birmingham businessman who founded The Birmingham Times, the publication you are reading, and will be inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame on Aug. 4 along with AL.com columnist and director of content development, Roy S. Johnson.
Birmingham is also home to Emory O. Jackson, a reporter, editor and chronicler of Black life in the Magic City for more than 35 years with the Birmingham World newspaper and Shelley “The Playboy” Stewart, 89, the radio voice for the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, who became co-owner of the city’s WATV-AM radio station, and co-founded o2ideas, an award-winning full-service advertising agency based in the Magic City.
“It’s hard to believe that in the NABJ’s 48-year history, Birmingham, has never been the site for the annual gathering of the largest organization of journalists of color,” said Daniels, who will appear on one of the panels. “Jesse Lewis and the newspaper he started that continues today are exemplary of the fine work of Black journalists. It is fitting that we honor him this year in the town where his publication launched.
“At the same time, we can’t forget about the fine work that Emory Jackson did both in newsgathering and advocacy. Both Dr. Lewis and Emory Jackson reflect both the historic and the contemporary role of Black press. We must recognize the Black Press are needed now more than ever. Thus, we are the perfect place to make that case and Dr Lewis and Mr. Jackson are the ideal examples to share.”
All sessions, workshops, plenaries, forums, networking activities, meal events and the high-demand career fair will be held on-site at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and connected The Forum Building and Sheraton and Westin Hotels, which have sold out its NABJ block of rooms.
Daniels said there’s no place like an NABJ convention for networking. “For those of us who are on the academic side, it is a valuable opportunity to connect our students with African American journalists from all regions of the country. NABJ members are part of a network that we can tap into no matter what market you visit.”
And what advice would he share. “One of the things that we stress with our students is you learn only about 30% of what you need to know about journalism or media in the classroom. Another 20% comes with the networking that we do.
“Consider every encounter or conversation an opportunity to grow your network. Recognize how many of us got jobs or make lifelong friends by our connecting in NABJ- whether at a national convention, regional gathering or virtual meeting.”
He continued, “Recognize the most important thing is not just being here, but what you set in motion to do after the conference. Go into the conference with the idea that you are going to make some career-changing connections while gaining insights that can help you in your career.”
Updated at 2:23 p.m. on 7/31/2023 to add meeting location.
The 2023 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention and Career Fair takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, from August 2–6. Thousands of Black journalists from across the United States will be in attendance.