Saturday, February 17, 2007

George Curry heads to Tuscalooosa

After being here in Tuscaloosa for four years, I am finally going to meet one of the town’s most well-known native sons.

George Curry, editor of the now-defunct Emerge magazine, is coming back to speak at the University of Alabama on Monday.

I’ll say this particular visit is one I had hoped we would have years ago when George and I exchanged e-mails right after I moved here from the University of Georgia.

Curry was candid about the history of Tuscaloosa and the lines that in the past have sometimes divided its residents.

His insight gave me a context to understand the recent debates over the location of the new Central High School.

In many ways, Curry and I have had similar paths—not just as journalists or black men who’ve lived (and I assumed loved) being in the nation’s capital. And, not JUST because we both have the same first name.

Back in his days at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Curry was instrumental in reaching back to high schools. He was the founding director of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop. He subsequently started a similar workshop in Washington, DC.

I frequently sing the praises of these Dow Jones Newspaper Fund workshops because of what I know they do for diversity in the newsroom and specifically for the role one played in my own life.

Of course, just yesterday, I commented on the recent court decision involving the Dow Jones Fund’s use of name “minority” in those workshop names.

Curry realized as I have that as African-American journalists, we have a responsibility that goes far beyond getting the story or putting out a newspaper or television show.

He remembers the role journalists can and should have in making a difference—a lasting difference.

Just ask one of my home girls, Kemba Smith, whose minor role in a drug ring while at Hampton University landed her in prison because of the federal government’s “mandatory minimum” drug policy. With a brother at Hampton University, this story was one in which I had a lot invested. The Smiths were a big part of our community in Richmond.

I could go on and on about why George Curry is one of the best in the business.
In the pre-Viacom days when Black Entertainment Television was owned and run by Bob Johnson, there was a program called “Lead Story,” that featured African-American journalists talking about issues in the news for the week.

Seeing Curry, who now runs the National Newspaper Publishers Association and, on that show was how I got to know this native of Tuscaloosa.

After Black Entertainment Television became part of Viacom, it was not long before the public affairs programs like Lead Story were canceled.

Richard Prince’s JOURNAL-ISMS recounts more about what happened.

Curry, in fact, commented on the decision to kill not only Lead Story, but also two other public affairs programs in a story on his NNPA News Service.

“An African-American company gains a considerable amount of capital when it sells out to a powerful conglomerate,” said Curry, who was a panelist on “Lead Story” for more than seven years. “But it also loses something important. Regardless of how BET tries to spin it, the loss of these important programs represents a major setback for the Black community.”

Curry has tried to resurrect Emerge magazine, which went under in 2000. I hope on Monday we’ll learn more about those efforts and what he’s doing at

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