New York Association of Black Journalists Criticized for Giving Beyonce a Writing Award

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I am not one to presume that the New York Association of Black Journalists were off-base by giving a writing award to Beyonce Knowles. While I am sure there are other professional writers who thought they might be considered for the award, we can’t assume that the woman who has sold millions of albums, toured the world non-stop for the last decade, been featured in multiple films and made thousands of appearances doesn’t have the ability to be an award-winning journalist in her spare time.

Here are some questions I’d like to ask the NYABJ about their decision to position Beyonce for the next Pulitzer Prize:

1)      Did you see Beyonce’s open letter to Michelle Obama?  Do you really think that the same person wrote both of these articles?  The first sentence of Beyonce’s letter says, “Michelle is the ULTIMATE example of a truly strong African American women.”  Is she writing TO Michelle or writing ABOUT Michelle?  What in the hell is a “truly strong African American women?”  I’m not trying to be a hater, but I just had to ask.

2)      Would Beyonce have gotten this award had she been a regular citizen and not a celebrity?  Only you know the answer to that question.  What about a regular citizen who didn’t even go to college?  Sorry, I’ll stop, since the college reference might make me sound like a snob.  But I can’t help but think that taking more writing classes might make you into a better writer, the same way that I’m sure that rehearsing every single day for years made Beyonce into a better performer.  I doubt that a journalist could do what Beyonce does by shaking their booty just once a month.

3)      You’re really convinced that a person who wrote one article, for one magazine, one time is better than every black professional writer in the country who does this every single day for a living?  Perhaps those bums need to step their games up.

4)      What’s in it for you?  Many organizations give false awards to celebrities just to get them to show up for their events.  The appearance of the celebrity grants publicity and instant credibility to the event.  In this case, the strategy appears to have backfired.

5)      What’s the procedure and who voted to give Beyonce this award?  Did the entire organizational body vote for Beyonce or were all voting privileges given to a select group of people in a private meeting?  Yes, that does make a difference.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit skeptical about the decision to give Beyonce an award for her outstanding journalism.  With all the celebrities, civil rights leaders and everything else hijacking the territory once occupied by real journalists (no, I do not consider myself to be a professionally-trained journalist – I am a scholar, blogger and social commentator), one can hope that there can be a space that remains sacred and above the influence of peer pressure.   But then again, perhaps next year, the Grammys will return the favor and give Album of the Year to Ed Gordon.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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