Blogging From Las Vegas: The Nation's Black Journalists Meet Sin City
Even in New York and Los Angeles the airport baggage areas look more like Turkish prisons than opportunities for hospitality. So I was not prepared at all to disembark from my plane in McCarran International Airport and find billboard-sized pictures of Blue Man Group, Carrot Top and George Wallace (the black comic, not the racist ex-governor).
Toto, I thought then, we are definitely in America's playground.
I am here in the place where stories never leave to join 4,000 other journalists of color this week for the National Association of Black Journalists 2007 national convention. On the surface, it's a melange of high profile appearances (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Singleton, Steve Harvey) and workshops on how to be a better media professional. We have a jobs fairs second to none, Ground Zero for black belt-level schmoozing among those who have jobsand those who need them.
But it's also a chance for all of us to reconnect with peers we only see once a year, if we're lucky. I wrote about this phenomenon for the Poynter institute from last year's NABJ confab, describing how it can take 40 minutes to walk to the conference's registration table, because of all the friends you bump into and greet with an exclamation I call the "NABJ Heyyy."
There's sadness, too. Every journalism gathering I've had attended in the last few years involves a roll call among friends: Who still has work? Who is about to be laid off? Who has been out of the game a while?
Fortunately, there still seem to be lots of recruiters coming to our jobs fair, and many of them look at me with annoyance when I thank them for still offering new jobs to people. We all know the headlines about buyouts and layoffs and cutbacks; I guess some peopel think if you don't mention it, it doesn't count.
I'm also taking care of some business -- as president of the NABJ's Media Monitoring Committee, I'll be announcing the awarding of our Thumbs Down award to Black Entertainment Television -- an award triggered by their failure to offer live coverage of Coretta Scott King's funeral and some of the more exploitive programming they feature.
I'll definitely get a healthy dose of NABJ Heyyy. Which I can use, in this depressing media age, now more than ever.