After working a shift at his day job at Maryland Public Television, Charles Robinson III hopped on the discounted bus service Bolt Bus and headed to New York City, July 11, to pitch his vision for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) to colleagues in the Big Apple.
Since April, he’s traveled to Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, California and other cities to speak with Black journalists in his bid to become NABJ’s next president. His website says he wants to meet every member, even if it’s through Skype.
“What I hear most is ‘Charles, I want to keep my job and how do I stay relevant as the media changes?’” Robinson, the current NABJ director for the Mid-Atlantic region, said during a recent phone interview. His best advice: know your expertise and don’t be afraid to tout your accomplishments.
The multimedia journalist, who’s had stints as a local television reporter, BET correspondent, WEAA news director and editor-in-chief of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Sphinx magazine, began his journalism career delivering AFRO newspapers as a pre-teen.
Richmond-born but Baltimore-bred, Robinson is now a political and business reporter for Maryland Public Television and an adjunct journalism professor at Howard County Community College.
He said his vision sets him apart from his competitors, two longtime NABJ members: Deirdre M. Childress, an entertainment editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Gregory Lee, a senior assistant sports editor for the Boston Globe.
“I have nothing bad to say about my competitors but from a vision perspective, I know where I’d like to take the organization,” Robinson said. “I’m trying to empower journalists and I’m looking to create a new business model to sustain not only the organization but all Black journalists.”
He plans to create an NABJ application for smart phones that would direct users to the best restaurants or cultural events in major cities and establish an NABJ news wire and radio or television network. He also wants the organization to offer certification for professional development training and use NABJ capital funds to seed member start-up companies.
To raise revenue, Robinson says the group should explore “simple ideas” such as launching a speaker’s bureau and expanding distribution of the quarterly NABJ Journal.
As an avid blogger and regular contributor to news sites, he also favors a new amendment that would extend membership to nontraditional journalists, including bloggers and online writers.
“We still have to guard our brand, but we have to explore what the criterion is for journalists,” he said.
Robinson would also have to stabilize an organization grappling with a declining membership amid a weather-worn economy and shifting media landscape.
To entice new and past members, he said NABJ must “ask them to come back and then we must give them a reason to come back.” “When they pay their annual dues, we have to remind people what they get—a network of people that know things and that can help you find another job…We are like a family.”
Robinson and the other candidates competing for the two-year term will participate in a live candidate forum, Aug. 4, during NABJ’s annual convention in Philadelphia.
Members can cast their votes online through Aug. 5 or in person during the convention.
“I get excited about this business,” Robinson said. “I know in my heart that people want Black journalists and they want us to tell their stories.”