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Image from UGA Today

By Adam Mahoney


Alabama native Cynthia Tucker, born March 13, 1955, is an award-winning and critically acclaimed journalist best known for her editorial work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tucker received a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007. Tucker’s unique, progressive, and liberal southern voice has gained her recognition and allowed her to develop a reputation as not only a reputable opinion source, but as a thought-provoking and newsworthy journalist.

Tucker’s style can be directly linked to her upbringing in the very racially hostile Monroeville, Alabama. It is reported that she did not attend a truly integrated public school until she was 17, and her parents encouraged her to boycott businesses that maintained segregationist policies; for example, they forbade her to buy ice cream from a drive-in that had a separate window for blacks. This undoubtedly contributed to her wanting to pursue journalism, but also her realistic opinions and attitudes to the working and adult world.

In 1972, Tucker entered Auburn University for the sole fact that she wanted her college experience to mimic the realities of the working world, and Auburn had only recently integrated and had fewer than 200 African American students. She graduated in 1976 with a major in journalism and English.

After her graduation, Tucker was hired by The Atlanta Journal were she covered local government news. In 1982, after leaving The Atlanta Journal and a short stint at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tucker packed up and went on six months of travel and freelance writing in Africa. From African nations such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, she filed articles on the struggle for political and economic equality, which not only influenced her personal life, but her work back home in the states.

Tucker returned home and continued as a columnist and writer until 1988, when she spent a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Following her fellowship she was promoted to editorial page editor, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the position at the Atlanta Constitution.

Tucker has since joined the ranks of syndicated columnists, as Chronicle Features began distributing her columns under the title “As I See It.” Her columns on issues such as civil rights and the war in Iraq reflected her liberal philosophy. At the same time, however, Tucker has not been afraid to criticize politicians who share her political views, such as former Rep. Cynthia McKinney and former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell.

Tucker is a fighter for the truth and it has paid dividends through her award-winning pieces. In 2007, she won the Pulitzer for her work on her 2006 columns “Living Proof of Immigration’s Marvelousness” (a piece in support of more tolerant immigration policies) and “Poor Little Big Man’s Pity Party” (a critique of mayor Bill Campbell). She has also won the Distinguished Writing Award by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (1989), the top newspaper columnist award by the Women’s Political Caucus (1993), and Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award (2005). Colby college also awarded her an honorary doctor of laws degree. She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2006 and was included in Essence magazine’s “25 Most Influential of 2007” list.

As of now, Tucker continues to write, commentate and break barriers at The Journal-Constitution, and is also a frequent commentator on such television programs as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.






NABJ-NU Spotlight —- Jim Vance


Jim Vance Fox4 DC

Image from Fox4 DC

By Innocent Ruhmaya

Born James Howard Vance III on January 10, 1942, Jim Vance is from Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He died of lung cancer on July 22, 2017, but his legacy—not just as Washington’s longest-serving local news anchor, but also as a decent man—still lives on. His father, James Vance Jr., died of complications from alcoholism when he was 8 years old, and his mother, Eleanor, left him to be raised by his grandparents while she worked and lived in Philadelphia.

As a teenager, Vance wanted to be a plumber like his grandfather, but was encouraged by his grandparents to attend college. Vance studied in Cheyney University, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education, and eventually taught English for three years while simultaneously starting his new career in 1969 as a reporter for the Philadelphia Independent newspaper and WHAT-AM radio station. Later in 1972, Vance became WRC-TV’s main co-anchor, and he did it as one of the first Black Americans to work as an anchor at a television station.

Vance was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine and won a local Emmy for his coverage of the Hanafi Muslim Siege of 1997, in which a terrorist sect seized three buildings and took around 150 people as hostages. He won another local Emmy for his coverage of the January 1982 Air Florida 90 crash in the freezing waters of the Potomac River, in which 78 people were killed. Vance was also inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame on August 10, 2007. Vance won a total of 19 local Emmy awards, and in 2014, he earned the Board of Governor’s Award for outstanding achievement and community service.

Additionally, Vance was well-known for his openness in delivering pointed commentaries, often on sensitive racial issues. In 2013, he called on the Washington Redskins, whose name has been accused as being racially insensitive and offensive to Native Americans, to abolish and change their name. Moreover, he was vocal against verbal abuse as a disciplinary form used by parents to their children.  

Unlike many other news anchors, Vance had an enduring popularity among local viewers, particularly in the majority-Black District mainly because he was relatable. He told viewers about his interests in sports, motorcycles, and old-school soul music, and shared his battles with cocaine and depression, which were mainly as a result of his traumatizing separation from his parents growing up. As a Black man thriving in the news industry, Vance played a huge role as an icon and a role model to so many Black boys and girls growing up in Washington. So, it was of no surprise that many people were heartbroken to hear about his diagnosis of cancer in May 2017. Jim Vance died later the same year at the age of 75.


NABJ-NU Spotlight —- Lester Holt


Lester Holt Atlanta Black Star

Image from the Atlanta Black Star

By Rory Tsapayi


If you want to moderate presidential debates, anchor two newscasts on NBC and earn six figures then maybe you should drop out of college right now. If Lester Holt can do all this without graduating then so can you!

Hailing from Marin County in California’s Bay Area, Holt has been a journalist for 37 years. His career began as he bounced between New York and LA, as a reporter and then weekend anchor for WCBS-TV and KNXT. In 1986 he came to Chicago to anchor WBBM-TV’s evening news. During his 14 years in the position he wasn’t only at the newsdesk, but also reporting in crisis zones across the world like Somalia and Northern Ireland. At the turn of the millenium, Holt joined MSNBC where he has remained ever since, best known as the anchor of NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC.

A little under three years ago, Holt’s appointment as the permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News marked a turning point in his career and the entire world of news media. Holt was the first ever African-American to solo anchor a weekday network nightly newscast, paving the way for future Black representation and excellence in the journalism industry.

It was in late 2016 that Holt really grabbed the public’s attention though, moderating the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. A registered Republican with apparent sympathies towards the Democrats, Holt’s performance received mixed reviews from the estimated 84 million viewers. He was praised for raising issues like race and the birther movement but quickly criticized for being too uninvolved and giving Clinton an easy time. Journalists commended his efforts as did Trump who was later interviewed by Holt in May 2017.

Described by Lawrence O’Donnell as “possibly the most important televised interview ever done,” Holt’s work cemented him in journalism history. Asking the president tough questions about Russia, Holt was unrelenting, professional and fearless in his pursuit of critical political information. His steadfast commitment to truth is an inspiration in times like these when the line between facts and fiction is increasingly blurred.

Holt seems to be interested in that blurred line, some of his work revealing a … weird side. Not just restricted to hard political news, he’s been involved in two documentaries, one about 9/11 conspiracy theories and the other on mysterious crystal skulls. It seems his journalistic curiosity knows no bounds.