A true celebration of the past, present and the future is the only way to describe the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation’s 27th Annual Robert L. Vann awards reception that took place June 10 at the William Pitt Student Union of the University of Pittsburgh.
|GROUP OF WINNERS—From left: Ashley G. Woodson, Debbie Norrell, Rebecca Nuttall, Ulish Carter, Rod Doss, Ashley Johnson, LaMont Jones and J.L. Martello, members of the New Pittsburgh Courier, display their awards for various categories.
“The reception was outstanding. Every year we have a great turnout. It was so nice to see the television coverage,” said Tonita Davidson, president of the PBMF. “Sometimes our stories get hidden within the ‘regular’ media and our journalists do not get the recognition, like they should (and the Robert L. Vann awards does that). It encourages journalists and shows it (their stories) do matter.”
More than 35 awards were given to local journalists who demonstrated outstanding coverage of the Black community in the local area by the PBMF, an organization of professional communicators that provides educational, career development and support to Black journalists in western Pennsylvania and is affiliated with the National Association of Black Journalists. Once entries were submitted they were then sent to New York to be judged by several professional journalists.
Winners were named in several categories dealing with newspaper, sports, photography, magazine, website and broadcast/television, just to name a few.
LaMont Jones, who received two awards, says, “It was good to see my quality of work validated. I’ve won awards before with the Post-Gazette, but these are special. These are the first ones for work with my website and as a freelancer with the Courier.”
He said the PBMF is a critical organization because there are still so many disparities within the media and it is nice to see those news organizations and reporters who are covering issues that pertain to the Black community get rewarded, because they may not have been in other media.
|TRUE DETERMINATION—Recently retired reporter Dee Thompson received an award for his achievements in the communications field as a writer, producer and reporter.
The reception included a tribute to the Pittsburgh Courier, New Pittsburgh Courier and its founder Robert L. Vann, who is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. The presentation, which was a short documentary, included comments from past and present Courier staff members.
Editor and Publisher of the New Pittsburgh Courier, Rod Doss, says, “We were very pleased and excited to be a part of the reception and for being recognized as a substantial part of history in covering the Black community and stories that others would not. We remain dedicated to continuing the legacy established by Robert L. Vann.”
“We recognize this is the Courier’s 100th Anniversary and it is only fitting that this be done at the Robert L. Vann awards, “said Ervin Dyer, member of the PBMF and Senior Editor of Pitt Magazine. “This was an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments. And if the Courier had not come first and the reporters had not done the work they did, there may not be a PBMF. People like Frank Bolden and George Barbour. We are the beneficiaries of their work and wanted to take the time to publicize our gratitude.”
Davidson said, the Courier deserves to be recognized as an important aspect of not only the local community, but also the Black community worldwide.
PBMF also gave several distinguished honors to local individuals who have demonstrated excellence through their work in their profession and the community. Dee Thompson, former reporter for WPXI-TV, was awarded the Legacy in Journalism award. Thompson, a New Brighton native, retired last year after working as a reporter and editor for the Beaver Falls News Tribune, a producer and reporter for WTAE and spending 35 years with WPXI. He discussed some of his most memorable stories and how he used determination to get to where he wanted to go, no matter what people said.
“I grew up watching Thompson on the news and always wanted to meet him, not knowing that one day he would be selected as an honoree and that I would be the president of the organization. He has a wonderful and humbling spirit and has done so much,” Davidson said.
“He is an inspiration for others and an example of what one can do if they try,” said Dyer. “He did not let the industry determine what he could do. If you want to do something do it, do not let others tell you.”
Along with Thompson, Robert Hill, vice chancellor of Public Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and Iyana Tennon, founder of the Virtuous Academy School, were both recognized as Communicator of the Year.
Davidson says that each of the honorees is affecting parts of the world through their works. Tennon, through her work with children and Hill through his work of presenting wonderful stories about and that effect the African-American community.
Dyer adds that the PBMF does not limit themselves to recognizing professional journalists, but that the organization celebrates all forms of communication and people who are doing things in the community that are productive, uplifting and that sends a message of hope.
It’s not only its recognition of the past and current journalists that makes the PBMF special, but also their acknowledgement of future, up and coming individuals who show an interest and incredible knack for the field. At the reception, scholarships were presented to graduates of the organization’s Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop, Keaton Nichols of Point Park University and Jasmine Glanton a student of Clarion University. The workshop is for high school students with an interest in journalism. For seven days, they live on Point Park University’s campus and experience every aspect of the communication field-print, radio and television.
“The scholarships encourage students to continue their education. So many students, especially in the African-American community, have a talent or interest, but are not able to continue to start (their pursuit of that interests) because of the lack of funds. We try to help with that,” Davidson said.
The evening also included wonderful entertainment from inspirational vocalist Shelia B. and the COL Jaz
z Band. The proceeds from the awards reception are used towards the scholarships the organization awards.