The New York Association of Black Journalists “is going to be looking at the criteria for next year” after its announcement that pop star Beyoncé Knowles had won one of its journalism awards was greeted with surprise, criticism — and headlines, president Michael J. Feeney told Journal-isms on Friday.
Feeney and his predecessor as NYABJ president, Gary Anthony Ramsay, defended the association’s selection of Beyoncé for “Eat, Play, Love,” a first-person story for Essence magazine about how she was reenergized after taking a nine-month hiatus from show business. Essence submitted the article, which the New York organization asked the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists to judge.
“As far as I am concerned, Beyoncé won fair and square,” Feeney said by telephone. “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. We’re just honoring what was passed on to us.” He hastened to say that 40 actual journalists were to be honored.
Ramsay, who was president of the group when the competition took place, said by telephone, “Having seen a lot of pieces over the years, it would not be the first time a celebrity or a so-called nonjournalist” won in New York or elsewhere.
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?