Looking back over Dorothy Tucker’s NABJ presidency

By Sydney Ross

After four years, Dorothy Tucker’s presidency of the National Association of Black Journalists comes to an end. Taking office in 2019, she is only the second person to ever hold the position for two consecutive terms, following her predecessor Sarah Glover.

Tucker will conclude her tenure this week, and the newly elected president will be announced today at the NABJ Election Press Conference starting at 5:30 p.m.

Described by her NABJ colleagues as patient and selfless, her tenure as president through the pandemic, increased media layoffs, racial justice protests and criticism of a lack of LGBTQ+ acceptance has been eventful. 

Months after she took the top office, all gatherings were canceled after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. That forced difficult decisions about the 2020 convention, which eventually went virtual. When she came into office, LGBTQ+ members were concerned about their place in the organization. She released a statement, the first for an NABJ president, declaring NABJ a safe space for the community.

“Just like you do when you cover a story, you get all the sides before you put out a statement before you make the decision,” Tucker said. “I learned that you have to take a step back. The best way to do that was to move slow and not be pressured.”

She also launched several initiatives and programs and found time to provide a listening ear to members. 

“I jokingly say that we have over 4,000 members, and I think every one of them has my phone number,” Tucker said. “People know that they can call me anytime [and] I’m not only going to answer, I really am going to attempt to respond and address whatever issue it is.”

Dr. Syb Brown, a journalism professor at Belmont University and NABJ academic representative, said Tucker has always been willing to serve and set a high example. 

“I grew up watching Dorothy Tucker as a teenager,” Brown said, noting Tucker’s long tenure at CBS News in Chicago, where she currently serves as an investigative reporter. “A part of the reason I wanted to be on camera was Dorothy.”

Among her initiatives, Tucker has established the Entrepreneur Academy and launched the Investigative Task Torce. But what she is most proud of is the development and success of Black News & Views. 

“Since I joined this organization more than 40 years ago, there’s always been rumblings about we should have our own, we should build our own, we should do our own,” Tucker said. “It was under our administration that we did that.”

Tucker enjoys speaking to and inspiring students and young professionals.

“I know it’s a small thing, but for me, it means that some young person who is in market number 120 may very well be on ‘60 Minutes’ one day,” Tucker said.

Though she will no longer be the president, she hopes to continue working on some key projects including a new gathering on Martha’s Vineyard.

“I want to expand the Investigative Task Force so that we are doing even more sessions, more workshops,” Tucker said. “Right now, we have a couple of webinars throughout the year. I want to have an Investigative Journalism Media Institute…where our members can learn, can grow, and those who are interested in becoming investigative journalists can just gather the tools that they need.”

Convention programming chair Glenn E. Rice said Tucker will be remembered for her tenacity and drive. 

“It takes a lot to run this organization,” Rice said. “And she is very patient, forward-thinking [and] always putting members ahead.”

As she heads out of office this week, she hopes to see NABJ continue on the path of expanding globally. During her tenure, she has witnessed firsthand how important the need is. 

“In my travels in NABJ, the problems we face in terms of racism, in terms of sexism, in terms of negative portrayals of Black people on television and in the media, those are the same kind of issues they face in Brazil, [and] the same kind of issues they even face in parts of Africa,” Tucker said. “I would like to see [the] NABJ Grant of Advocacy be extended to other journalists around this world who need to learn how we do it, how we fight and how we make change.”

She also hopes to see the organization continue developing more partnerships with other outlets and organizations abroad. 

“We are the most respected journalism organization in the industry,” Tucker said. “There are companies out there who, once they know what we do and understand the importance of NABJ, they will be more than happy to support the program that we have.” 

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