Over the last week, journalists and non-journalists alike have united in their outcry against the New York Chapter of Association of Black Journalists giving music superstar Beyoncé a journalism award. Many feel the organization is giving her the accolade merely to draw attention to their group, not because of her writing talent. However, the NYABJ president, Michael Feeney says it couldn’t be farther from the truth. “There was competition in the category, but the best piece won,” Feeney told press.
The NYABJ award nominees were judged across the country at the offices of the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Association of Black Journalists. The chapter president, Cheryl Smith, assured the NY president that Beyoncé’s personal essay penned for Essence magazine was the best entry their team received. ESSENCE, who submitted Mrs. Carter’s piece, also supported their reasoning to send the “Eat, Play, Love” article from their July 2011 isue to the chapter for judging in the Arts & Entertainment category. “She’s a real writer. We had to edit her, but everyone gets edited except Toni Morrison,” Cori Murray, Essence’s entertainment director, told media.
Despite Essence and NYABJ’s reasonings, some critics are not accepting these explanations. Eric Deggans, media critic for the Tampa Bay Times, who also chairs the Media Monitoring Committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, believes this award was a slap in the face to journalists and writers. In an email submitted to journalist Richard Prince for the Maynard Institute, Deggans wrote:
“Our awards should be the final place where we insist that work meet the highest standards. If groups that are supposed to be about maintaining journalism excellence are willing to lower the bar for a celebrity or because that’s the only entries we got for our contest, why should anyone else respect our reputations?”
Feeney said he couldn’t change the outcome of the judging as it took place before his executive board took over the chapter earlier this year, but this situation will be evaluated for future awards presentations. “We’ve heard the complaints loud and clear … the current board is going to be looking at the criteria for next year. We’re just honoring what was passed on to us.”
To learn more about the New York Association of Black Journalists and their upcoming banquet honoring 40 journalists, including tributes to industry veterans Robert Naylor and the late Gil Noble, visit their website.