Black journalists reject National Rifle Association recruiters; NRA joins CIA and VOA in banishment from job fair
For an industry desperate to diversify its newsrooms, the job fair at the annual National Association of Black journalists is the greatest show on Earth.
This year at Houston, for example, more than 110 organizations jammed the third floor of the Westin Galleria hotel seeking applicants. Corporate wooers ranged from the New York Times to the National Enquirer to the Lima (Ohio) News.
In this rush came some unwanted suitors, too.
In recent years, the issue of who should be allowed to recruit - or, more accurately, who should not be allowed - has become a perennial problem.
Last year, FBI recruiters were ousted in midconvention after some members complained about their presence.
In the past, the CIA and the Voice of America were barred.
This year, the National Rifle Association came calling.
In a narrow vote before the convention, NABJ's board of directors turned down the NRA's request to recruit for its several magazine and public relations slots.
However, an NRA communications specialist, Bill McIntyre, was given time to present the pro-gun group's case to the annual business meeting at the recent Houston convention.
The NRA application stirred strong feelings among members.
Warren Bell, a news anchorman with WVUE-TV in New Orleans, proudly identified himself as a life member of the NRA and equated gun control to "Negro control."
Other members, such as St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Greg Freeman, distanced themselves from the gun group, but nevertheless said NABJ should let any group with jobs to offer come to the convention.
"It is sadly paternalistic and just plain unfair for the board to limit the opportunities of job seekers" said Derrick Blakley, a reporter with WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
"As far as I'm concerned, if the American Nazi Party wants to recruit here we should allow them. And if there's a fool who wants to work for them, let him," Blakley said.
Many other members, however, argued the NRA abets the gun violence that is destroying entire black neighborhoods. They also objected to what they said were "racist" NRA print and broadcast ads that followed the Los Angeles riots.
"This is how the NRA, in its wormy way ... works its influence on us," said Andrea Ford, a Los Angeles Times reporter.
By an overwhelming voice vote, the membership voted to continue to prohibit the NRA.
Also this year, the New York Daily News was briefly banned from the job fair.
Before the Houston meeting opened, however, the board said that because of progress in Newspaper Guild negotiations with the newspaper, the Daily News would be allowed to recruit after all. …