(From l to r): Chairwoman of the NNPA, Denise Rolark Barnes, legendary lyricist and hip hop pioneer MC Lyte, President and CEO of the NNPA Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., Dean of the School of Communications at Howard University Gracie Lawson-Borders and Chevrolet’s Diversity Marketing Manager Michelle Matthews-Alexander break for a photo-op during the launch of the NNPA’s “Discover the Unexpected” Fellowship Program Sponsored by Chevrolet. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)
By Freddie Allen , (NNPA National News Managing Editor)
In an effort to provide student journalists with a unique experience working in the Black Press, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), teamed with Chevrolet and the School of Communications at Howard University to launch an innovative journalism fellowship program.
The program titled, “Discover the Unexpected” (DTU), will feature internships at four NNPA member publications for eight Howard University students.
The journalism fellows that are selected for the program will receive stipends and also have access to a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu to commute between their local newsrooms and their assignments.
The Michigan Chronicle, the Chicago Defender, the Washington Informer, the Atlanta Voice, were selected as participating publications for the first round of internships and legendary hip-hop pioneer MC Lyte will serve as the national spokesperson for the program.
MC Lyte said that she entered into the music business not only to have a voice, but also to inspire people to be unique and to stand up for what they believed in. The hip-hop icon, who is known for her storytelling prowess, said that she wanted the journalism students to have the opportunity to tell stories that mattered and that have the capacity to change lives.
Denise Rolark Barnes, the chairwoman of the NNPA and the publisher of the Washington Informer said that student journalists who work at Black newspapers get a global experience, because the needs are often greater and the expectations are higher.
“We don’t have beats,” said Barnes. “Today you can be covering a student who’s won a [Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] scholarship at one of the local high schools, tomorrow you might be a the White House covering an event for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. The next day you might be on [Capitol Hill] covering a congressional hearing.”
Barnes continued: “The collaboration between the NNPA, General Motors and Howard University provides the perfect environment for students to discover these opportunities.”
Francina Akuazaoku, a senior television production major at Howard University from Washington, D.C. said that she was shocked, when MC Lyte walked into her classroom to announce the new venture.
Akuazaoku, who grew up in the nation’s capital said, that if she were selected, she would use the experience to help her community and future generations.
Chavis said that the practical experience that the students will gain from the DTU program will be invaluable in helping them get to the next level after they graduate.
“These experiences are going to be unique,” said Chavis. “The Black Press is the trusted voice of Black America. When the students file their stories, they do it within the context of that trusted relationship. This program is going to give the students a foundation that they will use for the rest of their careers.”
Hiram Jackson, the publisher of the Michigan Chronicle agreed.
In an e-mail to the NNPA News Wire, Jackson said that he wants the student journalism fellows to learn the importance of being accurate, fair and unbiased and that he hoped that the program would help to build a foundation of core journalism principles that will stay with them throughout their careers.
Chevrolet’s Diversity Marketing Manager Michelle Matthews-Alexander said that the auto company recognizes the important role that the School of Communications at Howard University plays in producing the next generation of journalism leaders.
Matthews-Alexander added that it was truly exciting for “[Chevrolet] to be able to partner with the NNPA and Howard University to create this program to help students think about,” the possibilities for their future.
Gracie Lawson-Borders, the dean of the School of Communications at Howard University thanked the NNPA and General Motors for launching the fellowship program at the school and said that it is a wonderful opportunity for all communication students, “to prepare for the next journey in their lives.”
She said that the experience will open the doors to new pathways of opportunity for student journalists and communicators in a 24-7 digital environment and that the stories that the students will report on from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, to Chicago, to Detroit “will provide insight into the lived experiences of the people in those communities working, living, and acting to make their lives better.”
The NNPA member publishers who are participating in the DTU program this year also expressed their support of the program and the long-standing partnership between the NNPA and General Motors.
In an e-mail to the NNPA News Wire, Janis Ware, the publisher of the Atlanta Voice said that she hopes that the student fellows who work at the Voice learn the importance of the Black Press and the critical role that African American newspapers play in reporting, documenting and recording the everyday events of the Black community for future generations.
“The Atlanta Voice is unique in that we are in a city that has African Americans in leadership positions in all walks of life, including business, politics, education, music, entertainment and much more,” said Ware. “We will provide opportunities for the students to meet with some of these leaders and gather information for the purpose of sharing their stories with our readers.”
Ware said that the partnership between General Motors and the NNPA provides both parties the opportunity to expose a younger population to their brands, using the Black Press as a valuable and viable vehicle to do so.
Ware continued: “We can evolve together. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
For more information about the “Discover the Unexpected” journalism fellowship program, visit www.NNPA.org/dtu.