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Why I Keep Beating the Griot Drum



Griotdrumlogo2006finalIt's difficult sometimes to explain why I care so much about diversity in media.

Sure, as a black man working in various outlets, I benefit from people caring about this stuff. My most effective writing comes from experiences which are uniquely mine; when the world cares about that perspective more, I benefit personally, no doubt.

But, as I stood before a room in the Poynter Institute packed with area journalists, announcing the winners of the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists' Griot Drum Awards -- I serve as association president and coordinator of the awards banquet -- I felt like we had accomplished something special.

Already, we'd given out $2,500 to black kids from Tampa headed to college to study journalism. We'd marveled at kids from St. Petersburg's Soulful Arts Dance Academy, who were learning breathtaking skills in the heart of one of the city's most challenged neighborhoods. And we had a bona-fide network TV talent, the Early Show's Rene Syler, on hand to give encouragement.

I was reminded in a flash of an old advertisement for an insurance company,. which showed a black child with a towel pinned on his back looking into a mirror and picturing a super Stormhallehero who was white. If we can make modern media as diverse as it should be, when that kid looks in the mirror and pictures himself at his best, I'm hoping he won't have any trouble thinking of a black man gazing back at him.

Anyway, here's a list of the folks who won our contest last night:

Spot News
•    “Martin Luther King Jr. Parade” by Matt McGlashen,
WFTS- ABC Action News 28

Non-Deadline Reporting
•    “Lottery Secret” by Jackie Callaway & John Fulton,
WFTS-ABC Action News 28

•    “Small Town Justice” by Doug Smith, Lisa Blegen &
Craig Davisson, WTVT-Fox 13

Community/Public Affairs
•    “Righting Wrongs” by Anne-Marie Fagler & Kathy
Fountain, WTVT-Fox 13

Print (100,000 or more)
Deadline/Spot News Reporting
•    “A Sound of Their Own” by Nicole Johnson, St.
Petersburg Times

•    “The Invisible Men” by Ron Matus, St. Petersburg

Community/Public Affairs
•    “Facing Racism” by Cloe Cabrera, Tampa Tribune

Sports Feature
•    “In 76th Season, Another Barrier Broken,” by Dave
Scheiber, St. Petersburg Times

Print (below 100,000)
Deadline/Spot News Reporting
•    “Migrant Workers Face Hurricane” by Laura Figueroa,
Bradenton Herald

Investigative Reporting
•    “Exposing Pollution, Coverup in Tallevast” by Donna
Wright, Bradenton Herald

•    “Women of the Fields” by Ricahrd Dymond & Laura
Figueroa, Bradenton Herald

Community/Public Affairs
•    “Roots Run Deep” by Donna Wright, Bradenton Herald

•    “Tallevast: Exposing the Coverup” by David Klement,
Bradenton Herald

Spot News reporting
•    “From F to A: Day One” by Bobbie O’Brien, WUSF-87.5

Feature Reporting
•    “Looking for Angola” by Bobbie O’Brien, WUSF-87.5

Documentary/News Series
•    “The Hat That Started A Riot” by Alan Lipke,
Listening Between The Lines, Inc.

Investigative Reporting
•    “Handcuffs& Schools” by Bobbie O’Brien, WUSF-87.5

Public Affairs
•    “Handcuffs & Schools” by Bobbie O’Brien, WUSF-87.5

•    “Calculated Move” by Carrie Pratt, St. Petersburg

Sports Feature
•    “Crash Landing” by Carrie Pratt, St. Petersburg

Photo Essay
•    “A New Beginning” by Fred Bellet, Tampa Tribune

Gerald Levert Tribute

Geraldlevert His death at age 40 didn't get a lot of ink last week. But the passing of R&B singer Gerald Levert touched me -- he was about my age and had his greatest success when I was trying to be a pro musician as well -- and was captured amazingly well in this column by Leonard Pitts Jr.

One day, maybe 20 years ago, I ran into Eddie Levert. Eddie, a charter member of the legendary O'Jays, is one of the greats, a singer of thunderous power. Back then, his son Gerald was just starting out as a professional singer but already, people were remarking how much he sounded like his father.

''You better look out,'' I told Ed. ``He's gaining on you.''

''Aw, don't tell that boy that,'' growled Eddie. ``It'll go to his head.''

For all his feigned indignation, he couldn't hide his pride. You saw it in him whenever they performed together, the son mimicking dance steps he grew up watching from backstage, or egging the father on with vocal dives and climbs and barrel rolls straight from the old man's own playbook.

So my first thought was of Eddie last week when the news came that Gerald had died of an apparent heart attack at the absurd age of 40. I can't imagine what it must be like to bury your son. Frankly, I don't want to know.

Reminds me why I always loved Levert and Pitts.

More Deggans Punditry Than U Can Stand

Eric_sig I'm scheduled to appear on CNN's Reliable Sources program at 10 a.m. Sunday to discuss the O.J. Simpson media frenzy and Dan Rather. And my new buddy Robert Cox of the Media Bloggers' Association has asked me to be a judge in his online debate over whether MSNBC's Keith Olbermann degrades the journalism standards of NBC News by his opinionated stands (he maintains the critical, conservative-friendly Olbermann Watch web site). Check out the judges' responses here.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:37pm]


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