Kiera Savage

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — The Winthrop University chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (WUABJ) has been named the student chapter of the year for 2019.

The National Association of Black Journalists, which was founded in 1975, noted the Winthrop chapter “has established a strong presence on campus” and has been a highly visible “advocate for diversity and inclusion in media,” according to a university press release.

“It’s really, really, really, really exciting. It’s a great accomplishment and great achievement. We were really excited when we found out that we won…we really weren’t expecting it,” said senior Brooke Frierson, the WUABJ president who has been a member of the group since her freshman year.

The announcement was made at the annual NABJ convention, which was held in Miami in August.

According to the NABJ website, the criteria for the award includes the number of new members who have joined the chapter, the chapter’s community activities and programs and the number and size of scholarships awarded by the chapter.

WUABJ was one of four collegiate finalists under consideration for the honor, including George Washington University, Howard University and the University of North Texas.

North Carolina A&T State University, a historically black college in Greensboro, has won the award for best student chapter the last two years.

Frierson said she is still in shock about receiving the award, considering the small size of the organization, the fact that they represent a predominantly white institution (PWI) and the competition they were up against.

Dr. Nathaniel Frederick, WUABJ faculty advisor, said the organization works to promote inclusion in media.

“It is an advocacy organization founded to address representation of African-Americans not only in the media, but about representation of African-Americans in the newsroom,” said Frederick.

WUABJ was formed in 2009 after Dr. Guy Reel, chair or the Mass Communication Department, suggested to a number of students that they start a chapter at Winthrop.

“He gets a lot of credit I think for sort of giving that spark to the students and they went and did the paperwork. A lot of those former students now are still active with us as a department. They still come around to talk to students,” said Frederick.

WUABJ also maintains a close relationship with the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists (CAABJ), which members said likely helped Winthrop earn the national recognition.

“They saw our potential and recommended us and that was great. It was a surprise and an honor to know that our organization won that,” said Allison Stewart, a senior mass communication major.

“They are really involved in our organization. They really help us out a lot, coming to events, supporting our events, advertising our events,” said Frierson. “They welcome us into their meetings where they actually talk about business stuff and what’s going on in their world.”

Frierson also said Ken Lemon, a CAABJ member and vice-president of broadcast for the national organization, was a strong advocate for WUABJ.

“He’s been a great partner for us…whenever we need a speaker to come for something, he’s always willing to come and speak or even just to come to an event. He is a good source for networking,” said Frierson. “Networking with him and also networking with other people, because he knows a lot of people in the industry.”

“Ken Lemon was in our corner and fighting for us and showing I guess the people on the national level that these students are working harder or just as hard as the students at other schools and it’s their time to shine,” said Frederick.

He said the award is the culmination of all the hard work of students, past and present, who have been WUABJ members over the past 10 years, which has brought some positive attention to Winthrop.

“There are school recruiters, graduate school recruiters who are now looking at this university. They are looking at our department because of this,” said Frederick.

Frierson said the group is working to recruit new members through events like the media mixer, which was held Nov. 7.

“We basically want the people in the department, students, professors, everybody to come and (share) fellowship. Get to know one another…figure out who’s good at this, what classes are you taking? Where do you want to go with a degree and everything, because we as an organization…felt that there was not a lot of unity in the department,” said Frierson.

WUABJ meets twice a month and hosts events to make students aware of the opportunities available in the field of journalism.

The group held its annual media bootcamp Nov. 9, which featured sessions taught by Winthrop faculty, alumni and other media professionals.