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A Conversation with Abby Phillip: Race, Journalism, and Politics

CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip spoke to the AU community on February 16th via Zoom webinar about her experiences as a Black journalist, and how diversity and truth are essential for the accurate presentation of information to the American people.

This event was hosted by The Kennedy Political Union as part of their Black History Month series to celebrate Black professionals and was moderated by School of Communications professor Sherri Williams. 

Phillip covered the 2020 election cycle, noting the influence of Black political organizers, specifically Black women, and their tireless efforts leading to the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

“Black people and Black women powered these movements that put Joe Biden in the position to be the democratic nominee for president and put Kamala Harris in the position where she could be the Democratic nominee for vice president,” Phillip said.

Phillip is now the host of CNN’s Inside Politics Sunday, an hour-long discussion of the week’s trending topics in politics. This representation, a Black woman hosting a show for one of America’s most popular news outlets, is especially impactful. In order to accurately portray the lives of Black folks, Phillip noted, it must start with diversity in the newsroom.

“When I really think about the harm that is done to Black communities through their portrayal in the media I think a lot of it is happening at the local level,” Phillip said. “The vast majority of people in this country turn on the 11 o’clock news, what do they see? They might see Black faces at the anchor desk, but who is making the decisions behind the scenes?”

Before the event, the Blackprint was able to speak to Phillip about the importance of having Black journalists involved in political journalism.

The BP: Coming off of an election cycle as polarizing as our last election. Why is it important to have Black journalists in political journalism?

Phillip: “It’s really important for journalists of color to have a seat at the table, because you come to the table with your experiences, no matter who you are, your background, where you grew up, the kinds of ideas that you’re surrounded by, and every journalist brings that to the table.”

“For a long time I think reporters have shied away from identifying race as a factor in some of these political movements, and I think that time has passed,” Phillip said. “We are all on the same page that you can’t separate the two things, at least not right now. You can’t separate Charlottesville from race, you can’t separate January 6th from race.”

Phillip ended her conversation with the Blackprint by giving tangible advice to Black students pursuing careers in journalism.

“Now there’s a lot of interest in Black stories, and so go out there and find them and tell them. And I’m not just talking about politics, but all over the media spectrum, whether it’s in film, TV, or documentaries... there’s just this hunger for these untold stories and so many Black stories are untold,” Phillip said. “To the degree to which you can find those stories and surface them; it can be a key to success.”

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