Report from the Black Journalists Convention

The annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists meets this week in Las Vegas. Hillary Clinton has spoken to the delegates and Barack Obama is scheduled to appear at the conference today. Farai Chideya gives an update from the convention.

CHERYL CORLEY, host:

This is NEWS AND NOTES. I'm Cheryl Corley. Farai Chideya is away.

The National Association of Black Journalists is holding its 32nd annual convention in Las Vegas. That event kicked off on Wednesday. And in Sunday, presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton spoke to delegates and was asked the question whether she was black enough to represent the issues of African-Americans, a question often put to a rival, Barack Obama. He's scheduled to speak at the conference today.

and joining us now is Farai Chideya, the regular host to this program. And Farai has been attending the convention, can give us a sense of what's happening there.

Welcome, Farai.

FARAI CHIDEYA: Hey, Cheryl. I love being on the other side of the mic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORLEY: Well, of course, the question Hillary Clinton was specifically asked yesterday was what made her a better candidate over a black man in representing the issues African-Americans, quote, "confront." So how did she handle that question?

CHIDEYA: Well, she sort of turned it around. She said, I have to earn everyone's vote. I take no one for granted. She put herself in the position of being someone who was willing to work for the community. She talked about jobs for journalists. She talked about in reference to the Newark tragedy that you were just discussing earlier. She talked about creating a youth-focused program. And so she was really trying to sell herself on her public policy.

CORLEY: All right. Well, Barack Obama is, of course, speaking today at the convention. I was just wondering are the delegates there really excited that they have these two presidential candidates participating?

CHIDEYA: Very excited. And it is unusual only in one sense. Next year is Unity. Every four years, there's the Unity Convention of the Black, Native American, Latino and Asian American Journalists associations. And that is the summer before the presidential election. And, you know, a lot of big guns come out to recruit the votes or to speak to the journalists who will then discuss the vote.

This is somewhat early in the campaign season, but as you know, the campaign season is early. This time around, we've just had so much discussions, so many debates already that really, the NABJ conference, the Black Journalists Conference has benefited from the early campaign season, and it's getting two of the Democrats out here. Now, it should be said that the invitation was extended to other candidates, and these were the two who came.

CORLEY: Well, you moderated an event. And real quickly, can you tell us about is and how did that go?

CHIDEYA: It went great. It was an annual lecture, the W.E.B. Du Bois lecture on Africa. We turned it into a bit of a round table with actress Alfre Woodard, one of the founders of Artists for New South Africa, and the executive director, Sharon Gelman, just talking about how Americans can engage on Africa policy. And the best part, as usual, is when you have a group of journalists, the question-and-answer session is the best.

CORLEY: All right. Well, Thank you so much, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Thank you and you, too.

CORLEY: All right. See you soon.

NPR's Farai Chideya joined me from Las Vegas, where she is attending the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention. And she'll be back in the driver's seat here on Monday.

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