Years as President: Five months
How did you get the position: "I said, 'I'll do it.' No one objected."
Duties: Plan programs, recruit members, liaison with national organization
Trusted second in command: Tiffany Luckey of The Cincinnati Herald
How many people do you boss around: "On paper, our 11 official members. In reality, the three other members of our executive board."
President Bush gets "Hail to the Chief" played when he walks in a room; if your position had a ceremonial song attached to it, what would it be: "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" by McFadden and Whitehead
Surely there must be a special VIP area in Heaven for people who run volunteer organizations.
Besides trying to do her full-time job and dealing with family, friends and other details of normal life, the volunteer president must rule over people who often would rather not be bothered.
Like many others, Jenell Walton sort of stumbled into her role as President of the Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists (CABJ). She's a reporter and weekend anchorperson at WCPO (Channel 9) who thought that resurrecting the defunct local organization sounded like a good idea.
"I had friends from around the country who went to the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) conferences and enjoyed them," Walton says. "Tiana Rollinson (former Cincinnati Herald editor) wanted to get the local chapter going again but was moving to Columbus to work with Eric Kearney in his new job (a co-owner of The Herald, he was appointed state senator in 2006). I opened my mouth and said, 'I'll do it.' I think she dropped off all the paperwork and old chapter files the very next day."
Walton and a handful of other local journalists officially convened the chapter in September 2006, at which time Walton was appointed President. It held an introductory mixer in October and hosted its first public meeting last month.
The purpose of CABJ, as Walton sees it, is to help members learn and grow in their profession while also exploring how race impacts the news and those who report the news. For minority journalists who might feel somewhat isolated in their newsrooms, radio stations or papers, CABJ also offers a chance to network and talk shop.
An upcoming program will feature the author of a book about how the media covered the U.S. race riots in the 1960s (co-hosted by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center). The chapter is hoping to organize a professional development workshop for both working journalists and area college students who might want to pursue a journalism career and to take up a community service program with a local school or nonprofit.
"Like anyone in this business, I want to get young people interested in what we do," Walton says. "We'd really like to mentor students who are minorities and are unsure that journalism is right for them."
CABJ, as with most volunteer organizations, struggles with a lack of time and money. As the chapter grows, Walton hopes it can qualify for a $500 grant from the national association that would go a long way to fund future programs. Her employer -- especially its parent company, E.W. Scripps -- has supported her efforts by sending her to the national conference and by hosting the October mixer.
"I want to continue to grow as a journalist myself, and I imagine others do too," Walton says. "But, you know, it's hard to get people to spare some of their free time. People will say they want to come to the programs and support us, but it's hard to find the time sometimes."
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