Tag Archives | T. Thomas Fortune

Awards lunch keynote to focus on legacy of African-American journalist T. Thomas Fortune

For Immediate Release

Contact: Miriam Ascarelli at 862-576-1256 or ascarelli@gmail.com. 

Keynote address at NJ SPJ’s awards lunch will focus on legacy of T. Thomas Fortune, a crusading 19th century black journalist from Red Bank, NJ

The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to announce that Dr. Walter Greason, historian and professor at Monmouth University, and president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation will be the keynote speaker at NJ SPJ’s annual Signature Awards Luncheon June 22.

The event, to be held at Maize Restaurant in the Robert Treat Hotel, Newark, runs from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.   Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased here.

The luncheon will fete the first, second and third place winners of NJ SPJ’s annual Signature Awards journalism contest. The names of winners – whose work was published across various platforms, be it print, audio or video — will be announced at the event. Also to be announced will be the names of NJSPJ’s Educator of the Year and Reporter of the Year.

In addition, reporter Isaac Avilucea and editor John Berry, both of The Trentonian, will be honored as our two recipients of our prestigious Courage Under Fire award: The newspaper published several exclusive stories that the mayor and his administration were trying to keep under wraps. One administration official reported a burglary to police and suggested —in a supposed ‘joke’—that the reporter could be a suspect.  The paper stood by Avilucea, first with the staff un-earthing contradictory statements from police sources, then by filing an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) lawsuit to obtain bodycam footage. In the end, the “burglary” was revealed not to have ever occurred.

Even after the incident, Trenton’s mayor continued to insist that Avilucea be removed from the City Hall beat.  The Courage Under Fire award is intended to send a message—to those in NJ and in Washington, DC—that SPJ will not allow public officials to dictate which journalists they will allow to cover them.

Greason’s keynote will focus on a little-known piece of Garden-State history: the legacy of  T. Thomas Fortune, one of the most prominent African-American journalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fortune was co-owner and editor of The New York Age, one of the leading black newspapers of his day, and was known for using his newspaper as a vehicle to speak out against lynching, black disenfranchisement and other injustices.

Fortune also had a home in Red Bank, NJ, where he lived from 1901 to 1910.

Over the years, that home – which Fortune called Maple Hall – gradually fell into disrepair and was in danger of being torn down.

Maple Hall was saved from the wrecking ball in 2016, thanks to the efforts of local activists and developer Roger Mumford, who came up with a plan to restore the house and convert it to a cultural center and build 31 luxury apartments in the style of the home in the back of the property.…

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2018 conference; new scholarship; Nov. 19 meeting

Hello SPJ members,

I have some big news to share with you: our Regional 1 Spring Conference will be held on April 21-22 at Temple University in Philadelphia.

This weekend of training and discussion – dubbed “For the Love of Journalism” will be a joint production of the New Jersey and Keystone SPJ chapters.

I’m very excited about the prospect of co-hosting a regional conference in Philadelphia. It’s a great city with a rich journalism history and a wealth of talent.

So watch for more details in the weeks ahead and please save the date.

When it rains, we work

The SPJ NJ Board had a very productive meeting on Oct. 29. Heavy rain that day forced the board to meet by a telephone conference call, but we took some significant steps:

The Fran Burns Memorial Scholarship

The board voted unanimously to create a $500 annual scholarship to help a deserving SPJ NJ student member attend our annual conference, starting with the Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore on Sept. 27-29, 2018.

We decided to name the scholarship after Fran Burns, a former chapter president who passed away earlier this year. Fran was as loyal an SPJ member as ever there was. And she attended our regional conferences faithfully, even in years where her health presented a challenge. So we believe she would have appreciated this memorial.

The recipient of the scholarship will be asked to present a written report on the conference and to detail their experience via social media.

Watch for more details in the weeks ahead on how to apply for the scholarship.

“Oh, the humanity…”

The board also voted unanimously to add the Lakehurst Air Station to our list of historic sites in New Jersey journalism.

The site is where radio journalist Herbert Morrison broadcast his famous account of the Hindenberg crash.

The crash occurred on May 6, 1937, as Morrison was covering the landing for Chicago radio station WSL. His emotional words “oh, the humanity!” is still one of the most famous examples of live radio reporting.

This brings to three the number of sites on our chapter’s list of historic sites in journalism.

The other two are the Union Hotel in Flemington – where the press corps stayed during the Lindbergh kidnap-murder trial – and the T. Thomas Fortune House in Red Bank – home of a pioneering African-American journalist.

A meeting and a tour

Our next board meeting will take place on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Center for Cooperative Media in the new School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University.

Our meeting will be preceded by a tour of the building. Members are welcome to attend, but please RSVP to me at johnensslin@gmail.com 

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