For the first time in its 45-year history, the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) has a formal headquarters for its meetings, professional development workshops and events to connect with the community.
Led by new PABJ president and NBC10 assignment editor Manuel McDonnell-Smith, PABJ will have a two-year residency at Pipeline Philly, a workspace co-owned by local businessman Tayyib Smith.
A $12,500 grant from journalism nonprofit The Lenfest Institute helped secure PABJ’s new space at Pipeline Philly.
McDonnell-Smith is focused on the evolution of PABJ’s role in assisting black journalists and the community at large. “The whole essence of this conversation is that for 45 years PABJ has advocated for more diversity in newsrooms, but at the same time the business changes in journalism have been evolving,” he said.”In 2019, a different conversation on how we approach journalism and how it affects communities of color is happening and equitable information helps.”
PABJ’s announcement comes at a particularly tense time for black journalists and the black community. In addition to a media landscape often lacking diversity and inclusion, a recent viral tweet from Fox News contributor Jesse Kelly about the lack of diversity in CBS’ roster political reporters for the 2020 elections asserted the possibility that black people might not have an interest in journalism.
Comments like Kelly’s tweet show the importance of PABJ’s plight to push for more diversity and inclusion in journalism and advocate for more accurate storytelling to reflect a diverse population of people.
People are dragging CBS for not having enough black people, but has anyone considered the obvious explanation that many black people have no interest in journalism? Cultures are different and value different things. Doesn’t make CBS the KKK.
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) January 13, 2019
With a long career serving a diverse Philly community as an entrepreneur, Tayyib Smith understands the importance of stability for black journalists working to tell stories in a volatile industry. “We’re proud to be the new headquarters for PABJ,” Smith said. “As a native Philadelphian I know the imperative of independent black media. We’re excited to witness and be the home to the next phase of the institution’s growth.”
Job loss in journalism has been well documented in recent years; news site Buzzfeed announced plans Wednesday to lay off 15 percent of its employees and newspaper publisher Gannett also began nationwide layoffs.
To better prepare journalists for changing times, McDonnell-Smith is adamant about exposing black journalists to new ways of doing sustainable business. “Pipeline Philly marries two conversations: We want to advocate for journalists in traditional news and expand by bringing in bloggers, podcasters and digital journalists who felt like they didn’t have a home at PABJ while expanding on what we think is journalism,” he said.
According to McDonnell-Smith, PABJ’s new home at one of the most prominent workspaces in Philly is part of intentional effort to help black journalists develop an entrepreneurial mindset. “Pipeline Philly has entrepreneurs with all different businesses. Say you’re a freelance writer. That doesn’t mean you can’t write for insurance copies for bills or grant applications. Pipeline helps in making a connection for that ecosystem,” McDonnell-Smith emphasized.