By Richard Prince, Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
ATLANTA - Four years ago, filmmaker Spike Lee raised $721,000 to begin a sports journalism program at Morehouse College, saying he believed the prominence of black athletes in sports should be equally represented in the coverage of sports.
Last week, Ron Thomas, who became the director of the Journalism and Sports Program at the college, updated members of the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists on the progress of the program Lee envisioned.
"In May our program, which began as a concentration in English with only one journalism course, became an 18-credit hours minor that can be taken by any Morehouse student. . . .
"The program has grown exponentially. In its first semester in 2007, we had eight students. This semester, 45 students enrolled in our courses.
"Students were inspired by accomplished professional journalists as guest lecturers: New York Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden, ESPN.com columnist Vince Thomas, Atlanta Journal-Constitution feature writer Rosalind Bentley, NBA basketball analyst Mike Glenn (an expert on anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass and black athletes dating back to the early 1800s) and author Gary Pomerantz.
"Our program helped sponsor appearances by these prominent sports figures: Olympics iconTommie Smith in a panel discussion entitled 'Life After the Locker Room,' former NBA star Chris Webber, and Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner.
"Our strategic plan, entitled 'Changing the Face of Journalism.' established these goals for 2010-2013: increasing the number of professors and support staff, keeping pace with multimedia technology, securing scholarships, helping students obtain internships and admission to graduate journalism programs, and establishing global learning opportunities. . . ."
Thomas ended by noting Lee's seed money, now pegged at $1 million, and asking for contributions. "To replenish and increase that seed money, fund-raising has been added to my duties this school year," he explained.