TABJ president hopes to mold future journalists

TABJ president Courtney Burrell
TABJ president Courtney Burrell

By Sofiya Ballin
SMC Communications

Courtney Burrell, 21, of Baltimore is a senior journalism major and the current president of Temple’s Association of Black Journalists (TABJ). As we celebrate Black History Month, we talked with her about the role the organization plays within the SMC and Temple community.

What made you join TABJ?
I switched to journalism from education my first semester of my junior year, I realized I didn’t know a lot of people in SMC. I thought TABJ would be the best way to get to know people and network.

How’d you like the switch?
I liked it. The teachers seemed very helpful and wanted to make sure my writing was perfect. When I started TABJ, I applied for an executive board position. I was programming co-chair. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it, but everybody was just so welcoming. They made me feel like part of the family and it was great way to get my feet wet with journalism.

How’d you become president?
We had a lot of people graduating last year and Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown (TABJ president 2012-2013) basically asked who wanted to step up to the plate. I didn’t necessarily think I would be able to do it.

What kind of role do you feel TABJ plays within SMC?
We can play a larger role when it comes to reaching out to students but we’ve reached out to a couple of professors and they like what we do. Dean Boardman is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and we’ve reached out to him. He’s very supportive of us.

He really wants us to go to our national conference in Boston this summer. One of our co-advisors, Professor Maida Odom, is really helpful. She came to one of our programs last semester and she said it was one of the best things she’s been to on Temple’s campus.

What does TABJ offer to students of color?
We offer networking with a lot of professionals at PABJ and NABJ who are always looking to help students of color because they know how hard it is coming up.

TABJ has won a few awards. Tell me about them.
We won student chapter of the year for 2013 and we’ve won it multiple times in the past. It’s one of our biggest accomplishments because it’s on a national scale under NABJ.

Do you think that black journalists get enough recognition?
It can definitely be stressed more in the classroom. Professors don’t really go in-depth, unless you’re in an African-American studies course.

Who in your field do you aspire to be?
Honestly, Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown she is just… IT. She has two kids, she’s married and she has her own communications company. She shows that a woman of color can excel in the field if you are dedicated to it. If you network, if you put the time into it, you can make it happen.

And she was TABJ’s president last year?
Yes, she was pregnant and still president. She left and had the baby, we had e-board meetings and she would be on the phone calling from the hospital. She doesn’t let anything stop her.

What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I want to go back into the education field, but I want to teach kids the importance of writing. I want to incorporate my journalistic skills. In SMC’s high school journalism workshop class I was helping kids with their school publication and I want to incorporate that in whichever school I teach in. Eventually, I could see myself being a journalism professor but I want to start smaller. I want to give students of color the education that I had. It’s not fair that just because of someone’s zip code they can’t have a better education.

Tell me about the TABJ newsletter, The Legacy.
We basically write about things that happen in the Temple and Philadelphia community. Anything that’s going on that we think our readers would want to know about we try to highlight in The Legacy. We like to have a bunch of different writers.

Why should someone join TABJ?
If you want to join a group of people that are the same major as you, it’s a good way to bond and get closer with the Temple community. If I wasn’t a part of TABJ I wouldn’t have known a lot of journalism majors. In journalism you have to have someone to lean on, it’s good to have friends that you can talk to about the crazy stuff you have to go through in classes.

Do you think that people think TABJ is exclusively for black people?
YES. People ask me that all the time. We’re not just for students of color, we welcome anyone. Any major. Any ethnic background.

For more information on TABJ:

Twitter: @TempleTABJ