Roland Martin: Black Journo of the Year

The honor from the National Association of Black Journalists comes after CNN failed to renew his contract.

The National Association of Black Journalists has named Roland Martin its Journalist of the Year for 2013, the organization announced Wednesday, lining up behind the journalist and commentator after CNN refused to renew Martin’s contract.

In another development, Soledad O’Brien, another journalist of color whose role at CNN is being diminished, included Martin on her “Starting Point” show Wednesday morning despite a reported order to some CNN producers not to book him.

“Starting Point” ends soon, to be replaced by a show with a different host, presumably white. Under an arrangement with CNN, O’Brien, who is black and Latina, is forming a production company and plans to continue to supply documentaries to CNN on a nonexclusive basis. Those documentaries include her “Black in America” and “Latino in America” franchises, which she now owns.

The NABJ board voted Martin “Journalist of the Year” in a March 20 conference call, NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. told Journal-isms, the day after Martin disclosed his contract was not being renewed. The disclosure fanned further concern about CNN’s commitment to journalists of color under new President Jeff Zucker.

“Roland Martin has had an enviable career as a multimedia journalist, becoming a respected and trusted voice in print, on air and online,” Lee said in the NABJ statement. “He is unapologetic about his quest to provide well-rounded coverage of the African-American community, and to provide unique insights to diverse audiences across the many platforms on which he is asked to contribute on a regular basis.”

The release continued, “Those who nominated Martin noted his important coverage of voter suppression, perhaps the biggest story of the 2012 presidential election.

” ‘No other African-American journalist and member of NABJ brought more news and analysis to black communities about the most important story of 2012 than Roland Martin,’ said Vanessa Williams, former NABJ President and an editor at The Washington Post. ‘As managing editor and host of Washington Watch on TV One, Roland consistently offered journalism that reflected the hopes and fears of many African American voters as they anxiously watched to see whether Barack Obama would win a second term as president of the United States.’ “

Martin took a poke at CNN in his own statement, included in the release.

“I am enormously thankful and humbled that NABJ has bestowed this amazing honor on me for my work as a fearless voice in advocating the critical issues facing voters in the 2012 election, but especially as they relate to African Americans,” he said. “I hope this honor serves as a lesson to any young or veteran journalist that Black media platforms are just as essential and important to us today as they have always been.

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