Diplomatic Pouch / June 23, 2016
By Larry Luxner
The Washington Diplomat was among half a dozen “Champions in Media” honored at last month’s lavish Multicultural Media Correspondents Dinner.
The first-of-its-kind event, held May 26 at the National Press Club, attracted some 350 people and was organized by the nonprofit organization Vote It Loud. The goal: to highlight the contributions of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities in all major sectors of the U.S. media industry: print, broadcast and online.
The dinner, emceed by celebrity host Chris Spencer, featured performances by comedians Aida Rodríguez and Alonzo Bodden, and an appearance by actor Jamie Foxx. Also in attendance was Vote It Loud’s chair, Grammy Award-winning artist and filmmaker Pras Michel, as well as the organization’s vice-chair, Aaron Maniaigo, managing partner at Global Political Solutions LLC.
Thomas Burr, president of the National Press Club, welcomed attendees as he looked out among the sea of black, brown and occasional yellow faces.
“There was a time when the press corps was not so diverse. Even members of this club, before World War II, did not admit African-Americans. It did not admit its first African-American until 1955, and its first woman until 1971,” said Burr. “Since electing our first African-American president in 2004, we have moved by leaps and bounds — and it’s in that context that we welcome you here to this house.”
The Diplomat’s publisher, Victor Shiblie, won a trophy in the international category. Other “Champions in Media” included Richard Lui, journalist and anchor at NBC and MSNBC; radio correspondent Patricia Guadalupe; Cenk Uyger, host and co-founder of the TV news program The Young Turks; Todd F. Brown, CEO of The Grio; and Blanquita Collum, radio host of The Hard Question.
“The Washington Diplomat started as a new media company in late 1994. We realized that ethnic communities had their own publications. But there wasn’t one publication that told the whole story about the diplomatic community in Washington — and the international story that is so important to hear,” said Shiblie, noting how far the newspaper has come in the space of two decades.
“Our original goal was to educate, inform and help people understand the world around us,” he said. “We’ve evolved into a media company that hosts dozens of diplomatic events, and we have connected more than 180 Washington-based embassies large and small to decision-makers from Congress to the White House to K Street. I guess you can say we’ve Written It Loud.”
Uyger, who started The Young Turks with co-founder Jared Jackson 14 years ago, told a similar story of how his edgy news program has become ever more influential, as it deals with topics ranging from presidential elections to police brutality in Baltimore.
“When we crossed our first billion views, I couldn’t believe it. But now we have four billion, and we didn’t even realize it. When people say ‘Black Lives Matter’ is hate group and others say there aren’t enough people to fight back for them, well, we fight back for them,” he said to loud applause.
“The biggest compliment I ever get,” he added, “is when people come up to me and say, ‘thank you for being my voice.’”
Danny Vargas accepted a trophy on behalf of Guadalupe, a former WTOP radio reporter and current contributor to Hispanic media outlets who could not attend the event.
“For any of you who’ve lived in the Washington area for awhile, you’ve heard Patricia Guadalupe’s voice on the radio, and you’ve read her articles online,” said Vargas She is a journalist of true grit — the type of journalist who would ask the questions we need to ask if we had the opportunity. And in addition to being a great journalist, Patricia is also a very proud Puerto Rican, as am I.”
Two New York lawmakers of color, Rep. Charles Rangel and Rep. Yvette Clarke — both Democrats — were feted for special recognition.
“I spent four years in the Army, two years as an assistant U.S. attorney, four years as a New York state senator and 46 years in the House of Representatives,” said Rangel, a longtime champion of minority rights who is retiring at the end of this year. “Quite frankly, my wife says it’s time for me to think about getting a job.”
Clarke used the gala event to announce the formation of the first-ever “multicultural media Congressional caucus.”
“This gathering tonight is very significant because it aligns with my long-term vision as a public servant that diversity has a place in our democracy,” she said. “I represent Brooklyn, New York, and my district looks like many of you in the room tonight. My constituents are many races, ethnicities and religions. We, too, are America.”
Yet despite technological advances that “allow people to listen to music, map out directions, do Facetime with your friends and access the Internet” — all on an iPhone — she said minority media ownership is way too low.
“Multicultural newspapers, especially our local news sources, are still struggling to find a place online and gain the ad revenues to be sustainable. Twitter is simply not enough to convey the beauty of our messages, our stories and our narratives,” lamented Clarke, who called for more “checks and balances” in public politics.
“Diversity and inclusion are the major tenets to which we should adhere in these conversations. The purpose of this dinner is to embrace that diversity and honor those leaders who have been leading that fight,” she concluded. “I want to thank you all for inviting a sister from Brooklyn. The struggle continues.”