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Learning experience

You can never underestimate the power of networking.

This is something that was reiterated to me last week in Detroit at this year’s National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention. NABJ is an experience that is like no other for journalists of color.

For reporters like myself, there are many workshops, panels and critique sessions to attend throughout the week.

I had an editor from The Wall Street Journal tell me what she liked and didn’t like about my July 30 feature on the Curvy Yoga program in West Point. I met many of the writers who I’ve been following for a while and exchanged contact information with them in order to produce better stories for the Greater Valley Area. These are opportunities that don’t present themselves on a regular occurrence.

The Sports Task Force is one of the more popular groups in the NABJ organization and every year the task force’s business meeting that concludes the conference sounds the same with the issues that are brought up.

There are a lot of young professionals who are looking for their first job, a lot of veterans who are unemployed in the changing media landscape looking for their next job and there is a lack of diversity among sports journalists in the industry. In a standing-room-only setting full of more than 100 black sports journalists, members said there were many factors for why the diversity numbers have been so low. Some media companies don’t show up to conferences like NABJ, but the main issue is that a lot of the people in the position to hire journalists just don’t know any black reporters.

A prime example is here in the Valley. After 68 years of publishing, I was named the first-ever black editor of The Valley Times-News. No one on the staff realized the statistic until a member of the community pointed it out, because I wasn’t consciously hired solely because of my race. I was hired because of my background and my relationship with the previous sports editor.

That made the difference. I knew the previous sports editor and he knew me, which helped me land an interview, at which point I was hired for my skillset. More diversity is needed because more women need to tell stories about women and more people of color need to tell stories about people of color. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad to know the Greater Valley Area has taken one step closer to solving the issue.

Rashad Milligan is the sports editor at The Valley Times-News. He can be contacted at rashad.milligan@valleytimes-news.com