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NABJ Finds New Life at UofM

The University of Memphis National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) branch has returned following a hiatus due to COVID-19. However, take a step back; what is the NABJ, and who is leading the branch at the university?

Founded in 1975 by a coalition of 44 journalists in Washington DC and currently based at the University of Maryland, the NABJ is an organization that fights for the rights, representation and equal opportunities of Black journalists and media professionals. A significant part of this organization is the campus chapters.

Dr. Otis Sanford is the faculty advisor for the U of M chapter, which was founded 20 years ago.

“I’ve been involved with NABJ since the late 1980s. I became the faculty advisor for NABJ about five or six years ago, maybe longer than that. Because our chapter was growing and I have the most familiarity with the organization, I took the role of faculty advisor,” Sanford said.

The chapter experienced a period of dormancy following inactivity caused by the pandemic, but on September 15, it had its first meeting since the pandemic started. Making progress, the chapter held its internal election to select officers on October 5.

“We have a core group that is very excited about restarting it, and so we are going to be off and running,” Sanford said.

Dr. Sanford is not the only faculty member associated with the NABJ.

One of the new professors in the journalism department, Dr. Chalise Macklin, is an active member of the organization, which she describes as being instrumental in her career and plans to be a part of the University of Memphis branch.

“I have been in conversation with Mr. Sanford about my role and taking in some responsibilities with him, so that is definitely on the horizon,” Macklin said.

One of Macklin’s goals with the University of Memphis branch is to encourage the members to attend the national conference the NABJ holds yearly. This conference allows for networking and job opportunities on a national level.

“Making it a thing where the students are going and trying to get them to go yearly to the national convention is the first priority, which seems like an easy thing, but it’s not always easy when it comes to travel and expenses. From there, getting the students to understand why they need to go,” said Macklin.

Macklin also wants to get the U of M branch members involved with the local branches like the Memphis Association of Black Journalists (MABJ).

This is all a part of rebuilding the University of Memphis NABJ branch back to how it was pre-pandemic– an active and large organization on campus.

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