Confident, effervescent, inspiring and engaging; these are just a few adjectives that define the retired veteran television journalist, Monica Kaufman Pearson. Kaufman Pearson visited Savannah, GA as the keynote speaker during the Southern Regional Press Institute, held at Savannah State University this past Friday. There, she regaled listeners by speaking on her start in the world of Journalism and offering the best advice for future journalist. “That’s why you have computers, that’s why you have smartphones, so you can look up information as you travel; the more informed you are, the better questions you will ask,” says Kaufman Pearson.
After Kaufman Pearson accepted the Robert S. Abbott Memorial Award, discourse, I received a nod ofapprovalforaQ&Awith the esteemed media professional. While it was mandatory that I stayed alert and focused, I soaked in every word and hung on to every piece of advice given, from one well-versed professional to a new bright eyed and bushy tailed journalist, because… well, she made it easy to do so. Sylvia Alls: So how did you hear about SRPI at Savannah State University? Monica Kaufman Pearson: I actually met Dr. Dozier at an awards program and she said to me “I really want you to come speak at the school.” … So then I get a letter inviting me to the Regional Press Institute, and I thought yeah, I’d like to go… just give me the dates and I’ll come there! I can’t miss an opportunity to speak with students…I don’t want to go to my grave with all this information … I really wanted to be here and let students know there are still opportunities in our business … A multi-platform journalist is a valuable person now. If you can shoot, you can write, you can report, you can then do the social media… SA: Do you think that news is still news in 2016? The way news was reported on 20 years ago and how it is now, do you think it’s still news? MKP: Yes, yes, it is still news. Only the difference is instead of you reading it in your newspaper tomorrow morning, you’re reading it the second after it happened. SA: Do you think that people of color who are journalists are under a little bit more scrutiny than those who aren’t? MKP: Absolutely! But then the Hispanic journalists are also under more scrutiny than others…people assume because you’re Black or Asian or Hispanic you’re going to have a certain viewpoint. But all blacks and all Asians, and all Hispanics don’t think alike… So when somebody says “well you did that story because you know, you black”, no I did that story because I’m a good reporter … I don’t look at their color; I look at their need. SA: You spoke a little bit about black privilege. Explain that. MKP: Ok, you know what white privilege is? SA: Yes MKP: Ok, so black people are the same way… middle class black girl has a difficult time understanding why a girl growing up in the projects has two babies… Well, you don’t know what she’s had to go through… The more middle class we get, the more we forget that this person didn’t have the opportunities you did … They didn’t grow up going to good schools; they grew up in a school system where they were treated like trash. So you know, when we make assumptions about people like us and where they live and how they live based on how we grew up, that’s black privilege. We do to them what white people do to us. SA: I’m glad you explained that. I’ve never heard of that ideology before, that is new to me but again, I’m glad you said it. MKP: Yes, and it also affects how we cover a story. I can never forget a story of… we had a really bad summer in Atlanta … a reporter went over to a black housing project and all you saw were pictures of black folks sitting on the porch, fanning and rollers in their hair and I said to [him] when we came out of the story, white people get hot too. So he forgot … if you were going to do that kind of story then you need to show it in the black community and in the white community. You don’t pigeonhole people, but that was black privilege. SA: I wish we could continue, but thank you again! MKP: I love your questions because that shows you’re thinking and you’re listening. SA: Of course I was! How could I not? Thank you Mrs. Pearson for taking the time. MKP: You’re welcome, Sylvia! My pleasure!