Cook wins second Black media award

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Journalist Brian Cook of the American Urban Radio Networks has won his second NABJ “Salute to Excellence Award” last weekend in Tampa Bay, Fla. Out of 80 award recipients, he was the only journalist from Pittsburgh to win “Salute to Excellence” honors. He won previously in 2007 at the Las Vegas convention.

The National Association of Black Journalists awards the best and brightest in the world of radio, newspaper, television and Web material from around the U.S. and abroad. Roughly 2,000 attended the convention and approximately 700 attended the awards gala.

Many of the largest news and sports media outlets from across the U.S. walked away with “Salute to Excellence” honors.

The awards gala takes place the Saturday evening of every convention.

Michael Wilbon, a sports writer for the Washington Post and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption” received the lifetime achievement award. He has been a journalist for more than 30 years.

Brian wrote, voiced, edited and produced the piece (as he does for all of his pieces) which seems to be tantamount to the way news organizations are going these days. It seems as though media outlets are looking for people who can be a one-person-show in many respects.

Cook is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.and has been a professional journalist for six years. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1998 and Clarion University in 2003.

MICHAEL WILBON AND BRIAN COOK

Cook started at Central Catholic High School from 1994 to 1998. There was something called the morning announcements that he took an interest in. Central Catholic had a closed circuit television studio and station throughout the high school and Cook always wanted to be the one to do the morning announcement and become the morning anchor.

“I’ve wanted to be the one to inform everyone of what’s going on,” Cook said. “I’ve always been a current events junky.  I’ve always been that person ever since I was a young man. I mean ever since I was a little boy I would ask questions. People in my family would always ask, ‘Why you are asking so many questions.’ I guess I was destined for this so I would always ask questions ever since I was young person. In elementary school I would always be the one to volunteer to read aloud in school and in high school I did the same thing. When I went to Clarion University I decided to get involved in the radio and television station and decided to make this a career.”

Cook found out about the National Association of Black Journalists when he came to the American Urban Radio Network in 2002. He was an intern when he was at Clarion University and he heard about journalists that were part of different organizations. One of the journalists he always looked up to was Ed Bradley from CBS’ “60 Minutes.” He found out Bradley was a member of NABJ as well as Bernard Shaw, a longtime CNN anchor.

“Our company was involved with NABJ and there are members here that are a part of that fraternity in a sense of Black journalists across the United States and worldwide and I said okay this is my chance,” Cook said “I need to become a part of this and of course the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation here in Pittsburgh is a chapter of NABJ. I’ve talked to people like Ervin Dyer, who is the senior editor of Pitt Magazine, president of the Pittsburgh Media Black Federation and former journalist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, told me a lot about it. I will be joining the NABJ as an official member in the next few months because I need to become a member.”

One of the main reasons for Cook wanting to get the news out was because he wanted the public to become educated about what was going on around them. He feels there are people in the community who know a lot about entertainers and sports professionals, but not about who their representatives in Congress are and there are some people who complain about the gas prices but when you ask these same people who are responsible for the gas prices being as high as they are, they don’t know. So it’s his job, he says, as a media professional to educate the public and in some respects entertain as well.

Cook’s mother always wanted him to learn more than the average student.  He had extra things to do to accomplish this task.

“Ever since I was young my mother always told me to read the newspaper to be as educated as possible,” he said. “You finish your homework, but I want to make sure that you learn what they are teaching you in school. She wanted me to make sure I knew what was going on around me. I’ve had that ingrained in me at a very young age. I feel as though everybody else on the planet should also be well versed on what’s going on and current events, “said Cook.

Cook interviewed Bernie Mack about eight or nine months before he passed away. The reason he wanted to submit that story to the NABJ was because Mack and Cook talked about the very thing that took his life which is a disease called sarcoidosis.  It is a disease of unknown cause that leads to inflammation. It can affect various organs in the body.

“We talked about sarcoidosis and Bernie Mack’s recent stint with pneumonia which took his life. It was almost like he was talking from the grave about what actually took his life. My story aired two days after Bernie Mack died. Isaac Hayes ended up dying after Bernie Mack and both of them were pioneers, not only in the Black community but in the community at large.

“So I coupled the two of them together because they were also getting ready to star in a movie called “Soul Men” getting ready to come to theaters not long after their deaths.

“I would tell young aspiring journalists to do three things: Read, read and read. You want to make sure that you have a vast vocabulary and can hold a conversation with anybody on the planet about anything. You want to make sure that you’re on top of current events as much as possible.  If it’s not for reading, which is fundamental, you really have nothing else. You also want to be as knowledgeable as possible because knowledge is power,” Cook said.

Cook would also like to do television and explore all avenues of journalism. With the experience he has as an editor, producer and reporter he believes he can take his career to the next level. “The way the business is, you really never know where you’re going to end up,” he said. From so many people he has spoken to in the past, they always say, “You have to get out of Pittsburgh.” He says he absolutely loves it here, but if duty calls elsewhere then he will have to take that opportunity.

“I’m truly humbled that NABJ selected me to become a winner this year because I was up against the powerful National Public Radio, which is in Washington, D.C.,” Cook said. “The person I was up against was Allison Keyes and she did a great peace, but again I’m truly humbled. This is my second award I won in Las Vegas in 2007 and again in Tampa Bay in 2009. I’m just trying to make it in this business. I call it the unstable business that we all love so much. No matter what happens we still love it and I love the media business.”

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