By Special to the Daily World
WABE 90.1FM News Director Michael Fields has been named by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) as the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Ida B. Wells Award. Fields is being recognized for his efforts which have resulted in excellent WABE news coverage and a more accurate reflection of the diverse communities that Public Broadcasting Atlanta serves.
The Ida B. Wells Award is named in honor of the distinguished journalist, fearless reporter and wife of one of Americas earliest Black publishers. Regarding the award, Fields said, “I am greatly humbled to even be mentioned in the same breath with Ida B. Wells, who was one of America’s most courageous journalists, battling the double handicaps of both race and gender to fight the evils of lynching.”
There are numerous reasons why Fields has earned a place among the distinguished winners of NABJ’s Ida B. Wells Award:
Since the WABE newsroom first came under the leadership of Fields in 2006, telling truths about diverse and underserved populations has resulted in the station becoming a highly regarded and award-winning news outlet.
For the last two years, the Atlanta Press Club has selected WABE reporters as the winners of its Radio Journalist of the Year award. Every current WABE reporter has contributed to NPR with a newscast report or longer feature piece, or has been tapped as a guest on a NPR program.
Fields encourages reporters to take an in-depth approach to stories, rather than just the traditional “who, what, when, and where.”
One example was the station’s ongoing coverage of Georgia’s immigration reform. WABE’s reporter traveled to South Georgia and spent several days with immigrant workers. That story was subsequently featured on the Public Radio International program, “The World.”
Fields led WABE’s aggressive and continuing coverage of the test cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools, which have a majority minority student population. They are the people most affected by the scandal, something which Fields has always kept as a focus of WABE’s coverage.
Transportation is a consistent issue facing the Atlanta region. WABE explored the elimination of bus service in Clayton County and what the cuts will mean for one of the region’s majority-minority counties.
Atlanta has also become a major hub for the crime of child sex trafficking. Fields oversees the station’s continuing series of reports on sex trafficking, which includes its impact on young women and minorities in Atlanta.
On health care, Grady Memorial Hospital has a major impact on minorities in Atlanta. Its financial troubles highlighted the challenge of balancing business with the needs of low-income residents with little or no health insurance. Fields steered WABE’s award-winning coverage of Grady’s problems.
Finally, the racial diversity of WABE’s Newsroom itself made Fields a strong candidate for NABJ’s 2011 Ida B. Wells Award. Metro Atlanta is known nationwide for its large concentration of people of color. As an NABJ member himself, Fields understands the importance of assembling a skilled, diverse workforce. Since 2006, he has worked to hire reporters who not only reflect the region’s minority population, but also have the skills required to produce quality, in-depth reports about the region. Five of WABE’s 10-person newsroom are people of color and 40 percent are women.
90.1 WABE is a National Public Radio affiliate serving Atlanta. WABE is part of Public Broadcasting Atlanta and the Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative Inc.