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Three top local TV anchors of color to talk about diversity and media tonight at Griot Drum Awards banquet

reginaldr.jpgThe Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists has gathered three of the area's top anchors of color to talk about diversity and media tonight as part of its annual Griot Drum Awards and Scholarship Banquet.

Reginald Roundtree of WTSP-Ch. 10, Erica Riggins of Bay News 9 and Josh Thomas of WFLA-Ch. 8, three of the area's top African American news anchors, will participate in a panel discussion on issues related to covering the the diversity of the Tampa Bay area, headlining an evening which also includes awarding thousands of dollars in college scholarships and honoring local journalists who have excelled in covering issues related to people of color.

I'll be moderating the discussion tonight, choosing questions aimed at talking about the touchy intersection of race, journalism and modern media. As I have noted in my book Race-Baiter, job declines for non-white journalists were more than double the rate for journalists in general in 2011, according to statistics from the American Society of News Editors.

erica_riggins.jpgThe industry was already far behind in making its newsrooms reflect the ethnic diversity of the communities it covered. But job losses during the media recession have made it worse, raising the importance of efforts to feed the pipeline through scholarships like the Griot Drum -- given to students connected to the Tampa Bay area planning to study journalism at the college level.

The overall idea is simple: Developing a newsroom which reflects the ethnic diversity of its community helps reduce stereotypes and increase accuracy.

Full disclosure: I led the TBABJ for many years as president of the group, organized as the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. I also helped revive the Griot Drum effort back in 2005, bringing in guest speakers such as 60 Minutes correspondent Byron Pitts and CNN anchor Don Lemon to speak on the importance of diversity in news coverage.

josh-thomas-big.jpgNow we have a murderer's row of local anchors to share their experiences in a discussion we'll also open up to questions from the audience. Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper will be the master of ceremonies and we'll be presenting an event with aid from some of the best corporate sponsors in Tampa Bay, including Nielsen, the United Way, Valpak, Bright House Networks, the Tampa Bay Times and Helios Education Foundation.

The Griot Drum Awards are open to the public, with tickets priced at $30 for TBABJ members and $35 for non-members. The event will be held at the Oldsmar headquarters of Nielsen, in an expansive complex where data for the nation's TV ratings are assembled, organized and analyzed. The address: 501 Broker Creek Boulevard, Oldsmar. Click here for more details or to purchase tickets.

It's sure to be a great evening of stimulating discussion, with lots of local media stars and even a book-signing by yours truly.

Feel free to join us for an amazing event.