By Linda Wright Moore
RWJF Senior Communications Officer
Attending the 36th annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) last week in Philadelphia provided an opportunity to reflect on the many challenges facing reporters and the news industry in the 21st century. It was also a personal trip down my professional memory lane.
At the start of my career, as a television reporter and anchor, I attended my first NABJ annual meeting in New Orleans in 1983. The organization was small back then – just a few hundred members. We all knew each other by name. Fast forward to 2011, and I was happy to connect with old friends, including founders of the organization.
The group has grown dramatically to 3,000 members, and more than 2,500 people attended the Philadelphia gathering. The profession of journalism and newsgathering has also been transformed in response to tectonic shifts in the way we gather and disseminate information. Consider: “publisher” used to define an institution that had capacity to print a book, newspaper or magazine. Now, it’s anyone with a laptop, an Internet connection and something to say.
But don’t be fooled. The explosive growth of information and ease of access to it do not mean that journalism is a dying craft. In this 21st century age of information overload – where opinion, conjecture and even fiction can masquerade as fact – the ability to find credible, engaging, reliable sources of news and information is more valuable than ever. A free press is still the cornerstone of democracy – enabling us to make informed decisions about political leaders and policies. And we also rely on media to keep us informed about issues and policies affecting every aspect of our lives, including our health and health care.
At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) booth at the NABJ Career Fair & Exhibition, we provided an array of information about Foundation programs – touching on the work of every team: Childhood Obesity, Coverage, Pioneer, Public Health, Quality/Equality, Vulnerable Populations and Human Capital. We distributed the first edition of the Human Capital Expert Resource Guide, which highlights the work and expertise of selected RWJF scholars, fellows and leaders with a focus on issues of concern to Black and Latino communities. We hope it will be a useful source of experts to interview for reporters developing stories around health and health care issues. Take a look and let us know how we can make future editions more useful for journalists and other researchers.