Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr. (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr. (Courtesy photo)

Since the founding of the Washington Informer 55 years ago by one of the District’s leading voices, Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr., our publication has sought to provide the best in local news coverage which illustrates the very best of the Black community.

These stories, while noteworthy, often remain untold and omitted from mainstream publications or other media outlets. And while Dr. Rolark’s daughter, Denise Rolark Barnes, now serves as the publisher, she and her staff remain committed to the urgent promise of two men who published the first Black newspaper over a century ago.

“We wish to plead our own cause,” are the words spoken by John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, who, on March 16, 1827, published a new weekly newspaper that appeared in New York City, Freedom’s Journal. They were the start of the Black Press — a proud heritage which we continue today.

Now, The Washington Informer has reached another milestone.

Recently, The Informer took top honors in 5 of 6 categories in which we submitted entries for the DC Society of Professional Journalists Dateline Awards, announced on June 9. And The Informer found itself pitted against some of the industry’s best including: The Washington Post, The New York Times, DCist, Axios and The Wall Street Journal.

The winners include: William Ford, beat reporting; Stacy Brown, series; Anthony Tilghman, photography; Sam Collins, non-breaking news; and D. Kevin McNeir, commentary & criticism.

Each year the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists joints with its sister chapters in sponsoring regional contests to honor excellence in journalism. The Washington, D.C. Chapter’s Dateline Awards recognizes print, online and broadcast journalists in the D.C. metropolitan area and parts of neighboring counties.

The contest divisions encompass: Daily Newspapers, Weekly Newspapers, Magazines, Television, Radio Newsletters/Trade Publications and Online Publications. Within each division, there are nearly 20 categories — from Breaking News and Sports to Blogs and Feature Photography.

Below are comments from the five Washington Informer staff members who share their feelings about receiving this prestigious award. Collectively, the five award recipients have contributed 95 years of service as members of the media.

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher: “This is an incredible honor to receive recognition for the hard work and dedication each one of these members of The Washington Informer staff puts in every week. We write to make a difference and the honor confirms that. This is our first submission to SPJ, and I want to thank the members and the judges for this official acknowledgment of the great journalism we have continuously produced for more than 55 years.”

D. Kevin McNeir: “I have been fortunate to receive awards in journalism in cities including Detroit, Chicago, Miami and the District for my contributions as a news and feature writer and commentary writer. But this award means more than all of the rest because I, along with my stellar staff, were recognized among a field of mainstream, well-financed, highly-touted publications within the greater Washington area.”

“I continue to believe that quality of our work is what matters most and that it will be the crux of our continued existence and success. My writers and photographers know that and they have responded in similar fashion. There’s no other place that I’d rather be serving as the editor than here in Washington, D.C. And I have a boss who allows me to think outside of the box and try new concepts. She trusts me and she trusts my judgment. Writing has been my passion since childhood. Now, I’m granted the opportunity to live out my dreams — and in technicolor. I am honored to receive this award. But I’m even more proud of the work that my staff does day in and day out. These five awards belong to everyone at The Washington Informer.”

Stacy Brown: “This award is all Denise Rolark Barnes. It was Denise Rolark Barnes who gathered a group of Black publishers in Cincinnati last summer and included me and said, ‘We should look at Black women of the suffrage movement.’ It was the forethought of Denise Rolark Barnes and her vision that led to the series, which has also served to educate me in so many ways about the strength of the Black woman. With that, I thank Denise for giving me such a great, and now award-winning, project. P.S., because it’s still ongoing, maybe we’ll win for the same series next year,” said Brown, a 25-year veteran for the Black Press.

William J. Ford: “Thank you to the SPJ-DC chapter for recognizing the work of my colleagues in recognizing our work. We make sure to push for stories about various situations that go in the D.C. area, specifically those in the Black community who are not often heard, recognized and provided a voice to express their feelings. Fair representation must always be a part of the journalism. Period.”

Ford has worked in the journalism industry as a freelancer, correspondent and full-time reporter since September 1997, totaling 22 years.

Sam Collins: “Gaining the recognition of Society of Professional Journalists has been a very helpful reminder about how far I’ve come in my journalism career, and what more I have to do in my role as an information hub and conduit between Black people and the powers that be who have taken us lightly for far too long.

“While I’m humbled to receive the mainstream spotlight, please understand that I have no one to thank but the Most High, my ancestors, the leadership and staff of The Washington Informer, and the unheard Black African people in the trenches who’ve entrusted me with the stories of their trials, tribulations, and triumphs for nearly a decade. Over the years, my increasingly Pan-African nationalist sentiments have kept me grounded in the beautiful struggle of navigating my community and working in the Black press, an entity to which I am beholden as it’s how I cultivated my authentic voice as a 20-something. As a journalist, I’m playing a small, but significant role in securing our collective self-determination and realizing a vision that the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey articulated a century ago at the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s inaugural convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s my hope that this will continue to be the case for decades to come, as I work in alignment with my brothers and sisters immersed in good fight. One God, One Aim, One Destiny,” Collins said.

Anthony Tilghman: “I am honored to be worthy of an award. This is my first award for photography and I’m happy to be a part of a great team from whom I can learn, adapt and who challenge me to perform at my best. My tagline is #PHOTOGLIFE I’m a photographer and filmmaker and my greatest accomplishment was photographing one of the most significant events in the world.”

The Washington Informer Newspaper Co. Inc. was founded in 1964, and continues to serve metropolitan Washington DC. We are now reaching over 50,000 readers each week through our award-winning newspaper print edition; a weekly average of 35,000 unique visitors to our award-winning website; 7,500 weekly subscribers to our weekly email newsletter, along with Followers and Fans on social media.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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