Griot Drum Awards: Encouraging Diversity By Rewarding It
That's the philosophy behind the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists' Griot Drum Awards, a contest we started three years ago to encourage quality reporting on people of color by rewarding it.
It's not a revolutionary idea. The Pulitzer Prizes have done more to build quality journalism just by standing as the ultimate achievement -- a goal that galvanizes media outlets by offering a tremendous award for the field's best work. Much as we might want the work to be a reward in itself, it can't hurt to offer journalists a prize that instantly brands them as the best among their peers.
While the Griot Drum honors may never be that powerful, it is a great way to highlight some of the best work done locally on diversity issues, race and ethnicity. (former Early Show co-host Rene Syler speaks at last year's event at left) Especially since the local Society of Professional Journalists has stopped presenting its annual awards ceremony, there is no significant Tampa Bay area journalism organization honoring the great work done here which may not be recognized by the big statewide contests.
Since Don Imus was fired, I've heard from those who accuse TBABJ and similar organizations of violating objectivity or pursuing an unfair agenda. But from our perspective, we're standing up for a journalism value important as factual accuracy, freedom of speech or ethical consistency: diversity.
This year's Griot Drum Awards are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg. Newly-named Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and longtime journalism diversity advocate George Curry (at right) will serve as keynote speaker; we expect to give away a $1,000 scholarship and 15 awards to area journalists.
Join us for the event (you can email me to reserve a ticket here). Help us celebrate the best reporting on diversity the Tampa Bay area has to offer. And help produce more quality work by celebrating what has come before in the loudest voice possible.