Will Black Boys Have Skills to Be Journalists?

It's a "national catastrophe": A new report shows black men are performing lower than their peers on almost every level. Richard Prince wonders what that means for the future of black journalists.

Ballou High graduates Wayne Nesbit and Jachin Leatherman (Washington Post)
Ballou High graduates Wayne Nesbit and Jachin Leatherman (Washington Post)

Report Calls Underachievement a “National Catastrophe”

Black males continue to perform lower than their peers throughout the country on almost every indicator,” according to a new report from the Council of the Great City Schools, which calls itself “the only national organization exclusively representing the needs of urban public schools.”

Its report, released Tuesday, is bad news for efforts to diversify the pipeline that fills journalism jobs — and others that require a solid education.

“The study points out that there has been no concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African American males, who are not receiving appropriate attention from federal, state and local governments or community organizations,” the council said.

” ‘This is a national catastrophe, and it deserves coordinated national attention,’ stresses the report.”

Walk onto any campus, and it is obvious that young women now outnumber young men. This is also true in journalism programs, and it’s truest of all for African Americans.

African Americans still have the largest gender gap in enrollment; 63 percent of all African American undergraduates are women,” the American Council on Education reported this year.

“We have such a large drop out rate in that critical early time period that of course fewer young black men are going to college,” said Dorothy Gilliam, the veteran journalist who founded Prime Movers, a Washington-based program that provides mentors for high-school journalists. “Most of these young black boys are from low income families and those who make it to college often are first generation college students,” she told Journal-isms by e-mail. “Many don’t have the support system that really helps them to navigate through college, so many drop out and there is a lower graduation rate. It stands to reason that you have fewer showing up in the journalism field (or any other profession),” said Gilliam, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

“It really starts early, as this report indicates,” she continued. “If young children are not being read to and communicated with at a level that encourages them to be inquisitive and to learn, they are behind from the beginning. So many urban kids are going to under resourced school systems with teachers who have not received all the training they need. It’s all so interrelated. There is a quiet crisis going on in our communities across the nation. If we don’t get this one right, it doesn’t bode well for us as a people.”