Black female journalists addressed the CSU community Thursday, encouraging journalism majors from diverse backgrounds not to give up in the face of arduous difficulties the panel said students are sure to endure.
The Black Definition Program at CSU has provided events weekly in celebration of Black History Month in hopes to not only address students but also faculty and the community about successful African-Americans, and more specifically women.
“You really have to want to do this [be a reporter]. It is very difficult in the beginning, but it can’t just be work, it has to be your passion,” said 9 News anchor TaRhonda Thomas. “And you will know that it is all worth it.”
Thomas and Rocky Mountain News reporter April Washington shared stories with students about ongoing struggles and success of being women and minorities in the newsroom.
But Thomas said an eager mind and willingness to talk to people is key to success in what they called a homogenous industry.
“One of the most important qualities of a journalist is their curiosity,” Thomas said. “We are story tellers; we bring things to life. Everything can be a story.”
The reporters both told stories of being funneled into reporting on minority groups instead of other beats by their respective editors.
But Washington told journalism students not to give in to pressure from employers and coworkers who try to undermine their talent.
“Make sure you develop yourself, develop your craft and know your craft very well,” Washington said. “Don’t let anyone define you, you must define yourself.”
Both journalists said they came from different backgrounds.
Thomas said she knew she wanted to be a reporter since the age of nine.
Washington said it was the influence and inspiration of a college professor that persuaded her to seek a career in journalism. Now she is going on 17 years of reporting.
The women said that while they have conquered many trying experiences with discrimination in the newsroom, they still struggle on a daily basis to promote equality in their jobs.
Washington advised students interested in journalism to report every day, not just when you’re on the job.
“You must be a reporter 24/7,” she said.
Thomas and Washington advised students to be as diversified in their skills as possible, to go into a newsroom with their own identity but also with a sense of flexibility. Finding stories that are relevant to your life and your community is vital, they said.
The Black Definition Program will host three more events in February in celebration of Black History Month.
“We really strive to make monthly events appealing to anyone and everyone,” said Marlon Blake, president of Black Definition. “Black History Month is not just for black men or women; we really want everyone to take something away from it.”
For more information go to bss.colostate.edu.
Staff writer Taylor Blair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.