Q&A: Sheila Brooks talks legacy, impact on NABJ

Dr. Sheila Brooks speaks with NABJ Monitor student reporter Sydney Ross at the NABJ Convention and Career Fair in Birmingham, Alabama on Wednesday August 2, 2023. Dr. Brooks started the Student project program in 1990. Photo by Kathryn Styer Martínez / NABJ Monitor

By Sydney Ross

Sheila Brooks, founder and CEO of SRB Communications, a boutique agency, has more than 300 awards, and today she will add one more to her shelf: National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.

One of her enduring legacies within NABJ was to start the Student Multimedia Projects, which brings students to the annual convention to produce journalism on deadline for a week.

NABJ Monitor reporter Sydney Ross talked with Brooks this week about her career and her tenure with NABJ. The interview has been edited for space.

Q. Congratulations on being inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame. Tell me what this relationship you have formed with NABJ means to you?

A. I am very passionate about NABJ. Throughout its almost 50 years of existence NABJ has been a voice for the voiceless, and I am so proud that I’ve been a part of all of that. 

Q. What are some of the most memorable moments in your four decades of leadership in the multimedia industry? 

  1. I started my television news career in Seattle, Washington, in the late 1970s. moved on to Spokane, Washington, where I became the first black anchor and reporter covered some amazing stories there. Lots of racial strife during that time of the ’70s and ’80s. Those were some very good stories to cover. I learned so much about storytelling, and I’m very passionate about that. Went on to Dallas and finally ended up in Baltimore, Washington D.C. 

Q. How does it feel to know you are about to be inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame?

A. I am so humbled and blessed to be an NABJ Hall of Fame inductee in 2023. It is such an honor for me to have this prestigious award that I will be receiving on Friday and from an organization that I have been long affiliated with that I respect, people that I admired for so long. We are the best journalist organization in the world.

Q. What legacy do you hope to leave with NABJ?

A. You know, throughout my career, all I’ve ever wanted to do was to leave a legacy of purpose. My God gave me some gifts and talents that I know, I must give back. Service is so important in everything that we do. And that’s why I’m still here at NABJ all these years later, and that I continue to give back.

Q. The Student Projects have grown immensely since its initial start. How does it feel seeing your idea grow to where it is today?

A. You know, the student projects is one of the best things that has ever happened in my lifetime. My first convention was 1982. But I became a member when I was a student in 1977 at the University of Washington. I found out when I attended [my] first national conference in 1982 there weren’t a lot of activities for students. And I said, ‘You know what, one day I’m gonna do something about that.’ 

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