By Lacy Blanton, Guest Journalist
March is upon us once again. With this, the annual events of this month include the highly-anticipated March Madness, the mournful (or celebratory) ending of winter, and the welcoming of spring.
Another special event arises during this time: Women’s History Month, an annual declared month that highlights the honorable contributions of women from our society. Each year within the United States, a distinctive theme is chosen by “The Women’s History Alliance”. Recognizing the diversity and different roles that women have played throughout history.
This year’s theme is a very special one. That theme being “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories”. Highlighting those who have dedicated their lives and been active through press, broadcasting, blogs, podcasts, playwrights, scholars, and much more.
I wish to recognize and honor the trailblazing female journalists, from yesterday and today, who have made and continue to create a potent bridge between women and the world of journalism.
Barbara Walters – (1929-2022)
Legendary broadcast journalist and television personality, Barbara Walters has been in the journalism world for remarkably over sixty years.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English from Sarah Lawerence College, Walters would land a position in writing press releases for NBC network’s flagship station “WNTB-TV”, now known as “WNBC”. In 1961, she joined “The Today Show” as a researcher and writer, and later became the program’s ‘Today Girl’. Only handling light stories and discussing the weather. A time Walters herself described, when a woman discussing “hard news” wasn’t an idea that many took seriously. She broke that mold however in 1974 by being the first female co-host of a US news program.
By 1979, Walters had teamed up with Hugh Downs for “ABC”’s program “20/20” as correspondent and later co-host. Where she flourished until her eventual retirement in 2004. Seven years prior, she became the co-creator, co-executive producer, and co-host for daytime talk show “The View”, and later retired from her career as a noteworthy anchor and journalist in 2014.
Throughout the course of Walters’ career: she was most eminent for her interviews involving high-profiled individuals. Such as former US president Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalyn Carter, current Russian president Vladimir Putin, actress icon Lucille Ball, and ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson. She was also well-known in asking the most brutal of questions amidst interviews.
Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her Manhattan home on December 30th, 2022. She was 93 years old. In death, she leaves behind a daughter, close friends, and a legacy of helping pave the way for future female journalists.
Belva Davis –
Born in 1932, Belvagene “Belva” Melton-Davis is another phenomenal example of shaping the world of storytelling. She was the first ever African-American woman to be a television reporter for the US west coast, and worked as a radio broadcaster and news anchor for multiple stations.
Upon performing a freelance assignment for African-American magazine “Jet”, and receiving a mere $5 with no byline from it: Davis found herself writing pieces for other minority publications such as the “Sun Reporter”.
Throughout the 1960’s, Davis worked radio stations across radio stations with “KSAN”, “KDIA”, and “KNEW”. She then ultimately landed a spot for “KPIX-TV” in San Francisco, where she was positioned for thirty years.
Davis made herself recognizable for her coverages involving politics, race, and gender. As well as her calm, collected disposition. She has gone on to win eight “Emmy Award”’s and has been recognized by the “American Women in Radio and Television” and the “National Association of Black Journalists”.
Belva Davis is still alive and well today; having been retired since 2012. She cheerily lives in Petaluma, California with husband Bill Moore. She has two children with ex-husband Frank Davis. Despite her current age and reported diminishing memory, the journalism community still sees the versatile, talented woman who has ‘opened the heavy doors’ for so many.
Juju Chang –
Korean-born television journalist, Hyunju “Juju” Chang has created an impressive career for herself with backgrounds in “ABC News” and “Nightline”.
From Stanford University, Chang graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communications. After school, she began working for “ABC” as a desk assistant in 1984, and would later work for “ABC World News Tonight” as a producer and off-air reporter.
By 2009, Chang had made history in becoming the first Korean-American with an essential role in US morning news television through being a part of “Good Morning America”; where she was the news anchor and helped contribute news stories. She would eventually leave to work full-time for the program “Nightline”.
With her work-ethic and dedication, Chang has received numerous awards throughout the course of her career. Some of her achievements include the “Alfred I. DuPont”, multiple “Gracie’s” and “Emmy’s”, and a “Freddie” award.
Chang now lives on the west side of lavish Manhattan with husband Neal Shapiro (whom she has three children with), proudly continuing to serve as anchor for “Nightline”. She is an involved member of the Asian-American community as she is a founding board member of the “Korean American Community Foundation” and member of the “Council on Foreign Relations”.
Akoto Ofori-Atta –
Proud co-founder and chief audience officer for the Black-led national news organization “Capital B”: Akoto Ofori-Atta is one of a kind in her work.
In her early life, Ofori-Atta earned her bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism from Hampton University, and received a master’s in Communication, and Culture and Technology from Georgetown University.
She would go on to become the associate editor and social media manager for “The Root” and hold the position of senior editor at “Essence Magazine”.
Before leaving to pursue further development of “Capital B”, Ofori-Atta was previously the managing editor for “The Trace”, where she took full accountability for partnerships, special projects, and editorial operations. She had also completed a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University in 2015, focusing on issues regarding the Black press and diversity.
Today, Akoto Ofori-Atta continues to help “Capital B” flourish. Her “Instagram” account showcases the vibrant life she lives. Through promoting “Capital B”, sharing past heartfelt memories of friends and family, and pictures of her and the love of her life. She and her husband also share a beautiful baby girl together.
Shahrnaz Javid –
Woman of words, wearer of all hats, vivid photographer, and traveling-dreamer: Shahrnaz Javid is no doubt a soul many people should aspire to be.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated from Jeffersonville High School in 2011, Javid’s background and story is one that touches many of us.
Upon graduation, Javid attended Columbia College Chicago to major in magazine writing and was under a scholarship when attending. In 2016, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
Since then she has been involved in a number of enterprises as a writer and/or content creator. Several of her works include being an intern submissions editor for “Toksick Magazine”, a content creator for “The Times”, and currently holding the positions as a creative writer for “Unsaid” and contributing writer for “SVRN”. On top of that, Javid is her own boss as she is self-employed as a freelance writer and photographer.
Residing in Antwerp, Belgium with her husband and their beautiful little daughter, Shahrnaz Javid is very open about her career and life through her “Instagram” page. Upon reading and catching glimpses of her page, one can say it’s like a storybook come to life. Shots of urban European landscapes, eccentricities, lovely colors, and captions with words belonging to a poetry book.
Shahrnaz Javid, like the rest of these outstanding storytellers, is someone who is beyond influential.
Reading and/or listening to all of their professional work is an absolute must. They are all a mix of talent, truth, and devotion combined. These five journalists did more than merely write. They created a story of their own that many more female storytellers will look up to.