Here’s to you, kid

Published 10:59 pm Friday, May 18, 2018

My first full week living in the Greater Valley Area has been nothing short of jaw-dropping.

The community, coaches and players have all welcomed me with open arms, which has been much appreciated, as stepping in for Sam Chandler is no easy task.

I’ll remember one encounter with a community member, however, for the rest of my life.

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Longtime Greater Valley Area resident Tollie Dunn-Armstead worked for The Valley Times-News for decades as a paper carrier until February. She told me that I was the first black reporter ever to hold an editor position at this newspaper.

At the time, I just smiled and finished the conversation, but have reflected on that conversation ever since.

It’s a cool fact to know, but with the title and this realization comes a much greater responsibility.

The community deserves nothing but the best sports coverage regardless of who is in this position. However, I now understand that my burden to produce quality content extends beyond these pages. I may be the first person in this position that a Lance Elementary first-grader has ever seen, who looks like them. That can’t be understated.

The reality of the journalism industry as a whole is that diversity is an issue. A quick example of that is that although the NBA is 74.4 percent black, only approximately 28.9 percent of NBA beat reporters at major newspapers are black and there are only four women working as full-time beat reporters in the position.

My performance matters for the well-being of this paper, but it also matters for broader reasons as well. If my role and time here can motivate and inspire a young person to follow in my footsteps, to be unafraid of stepping into the unknown, I will have done my job well.

From personal experience, I understand that positive representation is crucial for young children to see, and can be particularly important for young black children. Around age five or six, I remember telling my mom that I wanted to look like Steve from “Blue’s Clues.” I couldn’t explain why, but I wanted Steve’s hair and Steve’s skin color. Maybe this was because of the way people who looked like Steve were represented, which was always in a cool, sophisticated manner.

How we represent ourselves is vitally important. I just hope to represent the right way, because there’s no way to know who may be paying attention.