A Man on a Mission

 A Man on a Mission

Each week DeWayne Wickham leaves his Baltimore home at 4:30 a.m. for the hour-long drive to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in northern Virginia. He suffers through nowaday’s heightened airport security with his eye on making his flight to Greensboro, N.C. Once there, he rents a car and drives to his office at the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies at North Carolina A&T State University. 

As director of the institute, Wickham is always on the job — planning reporting trips to other countries, tracking down panelists for journalism workshops, calling on colleagues to visit the campus or teaching students about ethics. And then there’s his day job as one of the most well-known columnists for USA Today/Gannett News Service.

“I’m always working,” Wickham says after wrapping up a day of fundraising for the institute in Washington and on his way to meet key North Carolina leaders for dinner.

Wickham is a man on a mission. What drives him is both a love for journalism and the desire to realize the true meaning of diversity in the newsroom. Both these passions gave birth to the institute.

Before Wickham arrived on the North Carolina campus, there were few resources for students outside the classroom, says Shana Brown, a junior journalism major from Havelock, N.C. Wickham invites students into his office, asks them what they want to do, then gives them direction on how to make it happen. In Wickham, Brown has found a mentor, and through him she is developing valuable relationships with top journalists like Lonnae O’Neal Parker of The Washington Post.

After graduation, Brown says she plans to attend graduate school at Howard University and become a feature writer, the same path Parker took.

“DeWayne Wickham has this little cell phone and he pulls it out and calls just about anybody in the world you’d ever want to talk with,” says Brown, who adds she had no clue what she wanted to do with her degree until she met and talked with Parker. “The opportunities that he has brought to the campus would not have been there without him. It just would not have happened.”

Wickham joined the journalism profession in 1973. He has worked as an analyst for CBS News, a reporter for both The Evening Sun and The Sun of Baltimore; as a Capitol Hill correspondent for U.S. News and World Report and as a contributing editor for Black Enterprise magazine.
He says it’s not enough for newsrooms to simply look like America. “The real promise of diversity of the industry is not simply that newsrooms will look like all of America, but that newsrooms will think like all of America,” Wickham says. “We need the diversity of perspective, cultural backgrounds, history and knowledge in the newsroom. In today’s newsrooms, there may be people who look different from one another, but they all think alike. If the diversity of perspective and background had truly been reflected in newsrooms, we might have seen 9-11 coming before it happened,” Wickham says.

While North Carolina A&T has a credentialed faculty and a newly accredited journalism department, Wickham says his weekly flights into Greensboro allow students to interact with a foot soldier instead of an administrator.

“I offer something unique and different in that I come from the Washington political battlefield every week, fresh from a new fight,” he says. “It’s tantamount to a soldier in Iraq, coming home once or twice a week from the battlefield to teach a war college, to teach battle strategy.”

— By Tracie Powell



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