Q&A with incoming NLGJA President Sharif Durhams: ‘Having more diversity ... is a priority’
NLGJA just elected Sharif Durhams as its president during the organization’s convention in Palm Springs, Calif. Durhams is a senior editor for news and alerting for CNN Digital. His two-year term leading NLGJA starts Sept. 9.
Truong: What made you run for NLGJA president?
Durhams: NLGJA has given so much to me in my career, and I've long done what I could to give back to our group. I've served as a co-chair of one of our conventions and been on our board of directors for several years. This is just an evolution in my service.
NLGJA's presidents have historically come from similar backgrounds. You're the first black president. How will your experiences distinguish your presidency?
Having more diversity among our membership and in leadership is a priority. I also expect NLGJA to become even more of a vocal thought leader in journalism.
I've seen what newsrooms are like when I've been the only one who is black or openly gay. I've seen what they're like when there's more diversity and people feel empowered. The story ideas are better and more nuanced. People contribute more to their work. The journalism that's produced better reflects reality and resonates with more people. Our emphasis on diversity at NLGJA under current president Jen Christensen's leadership has breathed new life into the organization. Building on this momentum, we will push even harder in that direction.
What are the top issues for your members and LGBTQ communities?
Our board is going through strategic planning, but there are things I want to emphasize. We must bring training to newsrooms about covering our communities, particularly members of the trans communities and LGBTQ people of color. We need to grow our membership and the organization's coffers to ensure we're here. We know there are still closeted journalists in newsrooms and people in small markets who could use the resources of NLGJA. We want to be there for them.
What resources does NLGJA offer to help improve coverage?
We have a stylebook that our organization worked on with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. We have tips on HIV and AIDS coverage we developed as part of a collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We've expanded our awards and college scholarships in recent years. We have a rapid response team that works with newsrooms that might have challenges in fairly and accurately cover our community. Our list of resources keeps growing.