Blacks and Hispanics are still underrepresented in our nation's media outlets -- newspaper and magazine newsrooms, television and radio stations, and public relations firms.
That is why I make myself available to any school that wants me to speak to students about my 26 years at The Vindicator and ask them to consider pursuing a journalism career. I especially want to show young blacks and Hispanics that they can be successful journalists.
That also is why I joined the Youngstown-Warren Association of Black Journalists. The YWABJ, in the two years I participated, offered workshops that explained to the general community how to write press releases, have news conferences, and get their information to the media.
I'm now excited about participating in the Ohio Youth Journalism Institute, a new program affiliated with Youngstown State University and local sponsors, that seeks to offer area youth hands-on information about journalism and the media as career choices.
Larger initiative: The program is part of the larger YSU initiative called "Commitment to Youth in the 21st Century," which was initiated by YSU's Africana Studies Program last year and is the theme of Black History Month.
The Buckeye Review, Youngstown City Schools, YSU Metro College, YSU Black Alumni Chapter, and YSU's Black Faculty and Staff Association have played key roles in spearheading the journalism institute project. These organizations began collaborating and formulating the plan last spring. In addition, they conducted a few pilot activities last summer.
The institute's theme is "Pathways to Success and Empowerment."
The initial institute activity was a literary and art contest last month in which students wrote essays or did art work to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and his dream of equality and justice for all Americans.
Other activities include a youth conference focusing on teen issues and concerns, and a marketing-public relations campaign designed to disseminate positive, educational themes and messages.
Convention: The journalism institute seeks to take several busloads of youth and adult chaperones to the national Newspaper Publishers Celebration of 175 years of The Black Press and the Black Press Institute convention in Washington, D.C., in March to meet black journalists and other black professionals.
In the summer, the institute plans to bring to YSU 24 to 26 black and Hispanic youths from the city's middle and high schools for journalism workshops and training. The bold goal is to have the students write, produce and complete magazine, newspaper, radio and television segments.
The reason I say the goal is bold is because it will take the combined efforts of black and Hispanic professionals in those fields to give of their time and talent to help these youngsters learn to do what we do for a living.
I met with some institute committee members to get an update and to brainstorm for additional ideas.
Committee members said Dr. Tony Atwater, YSU provost, was solidly behind the effort, and encouraged the group to keep him updated on the progress of all projects. Dr. Victor Wan-Tatah, YSU professor of philosophy and religious studies and director of the Africana Studies Program, is involved in the institute's formation, and the ASP will likely house it at the university.
Others: Others on board are Perkins Communication, Associated Neighborhood Centers of Youngstown, and Rebecca Williams Community Center, Warren.
Corporate sponsors are Charter One Bank, National City Bank, Youngstown City Council and state Rep. Sylvester Patton Jr. of Youngstown, D-64th.
I am asking my YWABJ colleagues and other minority media professionals to rally around the institute to help ensure its success. This is a good opportunity to enhance the writing and speaking skills for our youth. For additional information, contact Melvin L. North Jr., coordinator of YSU's Metro College program.