SMU Journalism Department Launches Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists
The SMU NABJ chapter, which launched in May, offers members training as well as networking and career advancement opportunities for Black journalists and media professionals.
Finding a community that offers a sense of belonging is an invaluable experience for college students, especially those who are new to campus. Ceara Johnson, a senior studying journalism and international studies, recognized this need for community as a freshman.
“When I came to SMU as a freshman in the fall of 2020, I knew a couple other students of color, but maybe one or two within the J-school,” Johnson says. “I just thought about how awesome it would be if I had not only someone to look up to but a whole group of people I could confide in and meet up with and strategize for potential career opportunities.”
SMU’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists offers exactly this kind of community. NABJ provides training as well as networking and career advancement opportunities for Black journalists and media professionals.
Johnson and other students looking to join the group held a kick-off event to recruit members on March 7, the night of the 2023 O’Neill lecture. It was a fitting night for the kick-off, as the featured speaker was journalist and author Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist for The Washington Post who recently received a Legacy Award from NABJ.
The NABJ approval process for the SMU chapter took about six weeks. The chapter received official approval on May 27, with Johnson serving as its president.
“It was a production to get it all taken care of,” says NABJ faculty advisor and SMU Journalism Professor of Practice Valerie Evans. “We had to get a letter from the Dallas chapter approving us and we had to get a letter from the regional director... She did a Zoom call with us in the process, so she could meet everybody.”
Eva Coleman serves as the NABJ Region III Director, as well as President of the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists. She says there are tremendous opportunities that members of the SMU NABJ chapter can access.
“From the networking opportunities to scholarships and fellowships, there are many ways to engage with the organization and with professionals in the industry,” Coleman says.
This summer, Johnson had the opportunity to represent SMU at the NABJ national convention with Professor Evans. The convention was held in Birmingham, Alabama from August 3 - 6.
“I got to not only see the history of Birmingham and go to the Civil Rights Institute, but also, at the conference, I got more in touch with really successful people of color in the journalism, PR and communications industries,” Johnson says. “I also connected with some leaders of collegiate chapters to pick their brains a bit about ideas for the upcoming semester. It was overall just a great experience.”
Evans says the SMU NABJ chapter could also be a way to engage with prospective students interested in journalism or those who haven’t yet decided what they will study.
“It is part of our commitment to diversify the journalism school and to get more people in, so maybe we can get more people interested in journalism if we get them interested in the chapter,” Evans says.
Students interested in learning more about SMU’s NABJ chapter should reach out to Johnson directly or follow the chapter’s Instagram page, @smublackjournalists.