If anyone thought that the New York Association of Black Journalists (NYABJ) would defend the caliber of Beyonce Knowles’ award-winning Essence story, “Eat, Play, Love,” they would be sadly mistaken. In a (second) slap in the face to journalists everywhere, President Michael J. Feeney basically told The Root’s Journal-isms that Beyonce’s piece was all they had to work with.
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“…We’re just honoring what was passed on to us,” he said. “There was no stipulation that you had to be a member of NYABJ or a writer or journalist. The current board is going to be looking at the criteria for next year.”
Eric Deggans, media critic for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, who chairs the Media Monitoring Committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, articulated some of the concern about the award to Beyoncé.
“I know there’s a lot of great practical reasons why giving Beyoncé a journalism award makes sense for this chapter,” Deggans said by email.
“But at a time when everyone from politicians to entertainers is trying to co-opt the credibility of journalists without actually adhering to the ethical standards which [make] our work trustworthy in the first place, journalists need to be the ones who stand against this stuff.
“Our awards should be the final place where we insist that work meet the highest standards. If groups that are supposed to be about maintaining journalism excellence are willing to lower the bar for a celebrity or because that’s the only entries we got for our contest, why should anyone else respect our reputations?
“If we’re willing to grade on a curve to make a celebrity look good, we’re only hurting the reputation of the awards and our own reputations as well.”
In another statement designed to distance the NYABJ from any criticism, Feeney made it very clear that the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists is the organization that actually selected the “Video Phone” singer for the award.
“Cheryl Smith, president of the Dallas association, said the chapter received no pressure from anywhere, overt or implied,” Feeney said. “Cheryl assured me it was the best entry that was submitted. That’s what she said, and that’s what we had to go with. I spoke with the people at Essence,” he continued, “they assured me that they believe that she wrote it.”
The scathing criticism exploding across the internet ranges from Beyonce didn’t write the piece, to she didn’t deserve the award even if she did, to the NYABJ had ulterior motives in singling out a celebrity for the honor. Feeney assures everyone that they are not taking the feedback lightly.