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Black colleges flex muscles in media and want more

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By Jordan D. Brown with SGJC Student News Network

LAS VEGAS – Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have drawn nationwide attention in the media within the past few years, ranging from a U.S. vice president, sports disruptors, and network TV executives.

During a panel discussion on Thursday at the NABJ/NAHJ Convention, media professionals and HBCU alumni spoke on the importance of more often portraying these universities in the national media.

Marcus Thompson, lead columnist at the Athletic, hosted the discussion.

The panel included: Dayna Lee, HBCU outreach and engagement director at the Walt Disney and a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University graduate, Carron Phillips, senior editor and writer at Deadspin and Morehouse College graduate, East Dockery, social media manager at ESSENCE and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University graduate, and Donzell Floyd, associate producer at WarnerMedia News and Sports and Xavier University of Louisiana graduate.

As HBCUs garnered new attention, Lee said there are growth opportunities presented to HBCU students that were not widely available before.

“Leaders in the organization are starting to realize that HBCU grads are the elite,” She said. “We came out of our institutions with half of the resources that other institutions had and then learned double.

“[Employers] went to four HBCUs: FAMU, Hampton, Howard and North Carolina A&T. Those were the focus schools. That was it. We are byproducts of going to FAMU and getting that opportunity. But there's the Morgan State’s, the Bowie State’s and the million of Xavier's who did not get that opportunity. So now, I think it is the time of a lifetime, where you ought to get you actually have the power of choice,” Lee said.

Although HBCUs have received a lot of positive attention and opportunities lately, Dockery said the culture of HBCUs is often misunderstood by mainstream media and that is reflected in the reporting.

“The mainstream media doesn't really take all that [in] anymore,” he said. “They look at HBCUs, they see bands, fraternities and sororities and stuff they didn't really understand because they don't understand us.”

Dockery and other panelists urged the importance of researching the schools and universities ahead of covering them to accurately portray them in the media.

The panelists shared their experiences at their respective universities and how it prepared them for their professional careers. As HBCU coverage continues, they strive to assist the reporting and accurately reflect the importance of these schools.