TAMPA – Students, novices and veterans of the journalism community gathered last Thursday, Nov. 17, to celebrate the craft of journalism, to honor the leaders and encourage the recently inspired.
The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists (TBABJ) honored five veteran journalists at its 11th annual Griot Drum Awards & Scholarship Banquet, which recognizes the best journalism on issues related to people of color in Tampa Bay.
Known for their legacies and impact on the community Larry Cotton, Dayle Green, Rev. Kenny Irby, Josh Thomas and Denise White received recognition for the years they spent contributing to the community and blazing the trail for journalists in the making.
Jarrett Hill, who’s currently with Hollywood Reporter’s Back2Reality and who broke the story that Melania Trump’s June speech was plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s 2008 address to the Democratic National Convention.
His comparison of the two speeches went viral on Twitter. This former Tampa journalist’s revelation has made him a star in the political journalism and pop culture community.
Hill spoke about his fortuitous break and his turbulent past with journalism, and encouraged all aspiring journalists to do what they want to do, even through every objection, he believes that God will find the way for anyone to succeed if they have the passion for it.
“If you really believe this is for you, then you really have to do it,” said Hill.
He stole the show with his facial expressions, comical anecdotes and charming personality.
Veronica Blakely of V’s Voice Communication feed on Hill’s energy and continued the spirit of the event for her presentation of this year’s Media Awards. Blakely announced winners in the photography, radio, telecom and print categories.
Two female journalism students from Hillsborough College and the University of South Florida were awarded $1,000 scholarships for their fluency in new media and the ethical and critical thinking skills of past practices created the perfect combination of old and new school journalism.
Veteran journalist honored
Larry Cotton retired this year as WFLA-TV’s senior production cameraman and photographer. He had his own segment on WFLA’s Daytime talk showed called “Larry’s Good Eats” where he would visit restaurants and eat his way through Tampa Bay.
Cotton, who moved to Tampa from Cleveland, Ohio, in 1986, worked at WFLA for 28 years and has been in journalism about 40 years. His involvement with the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists started when the organization was known as the Suncoast Black Communicators.
Rev. Kenny Irby was Poynter Institute’s visual journalism and diversity senior faculty member from 1995 to 2015. In 2016, he was hired by the City of St. Petersburg as its community intervention director. The senior pastor of Bethel A.M.E., he recently formed Men in the Making, a program that pairs boys with role models. Before joining Poynter, he worked as a photojournalist for Newsday and media outlets in Boston and Michigan.
Dayle Greene came to Tampa in 1972 and became one of the first African-American on-air talents at Fox’s WTVT-Channel 13. He has the distinction of being the first black news anchor in the area. Green also hosted a public affairs show for Cox Radio, and is currently a career manager at the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance.
Josh Thomas retired from WFLA this year as an anchor and reporter. He began his broadcast career as a reporter in Rockford, Ill., and worked as an anchor and reporter in Peoria, Ill., New Haven, Conn., Atlanta, Baltimore, and Birmingham, Ala. He became a weekend co-anchor at WFLA in 2003.
Thomas won numerous awards for reporting in Atlanta and Baltimore and was named the best anchor in Alabama by the Associated Press in 1997. He also has served as a visiting faculty member at Poynter Institute.
After 25 years at Fox’s WTVT-Channel 13, Denise White retired from her full-time position in 2015. It also marked 40 years in the broadcast industry.
Leaving the Miami market, White became the first female anchor duo in Tampa Bay television. For some time in the 1990s, White was the highest-profile minority anchor in the local market and the only black journalist anchoring a weekday evening newscast.