Image courtesty of Getty Images for BET

Several journalists involved in Paramount and Black Entertainment Television’s  America in Black are alumni from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

BET and Paramount’s newsmagazine program recently released its second season in February, with new episodes every month. Field producer Harry Forbes (BSJ '19), described it as “60 Minutes for Black people.”

The primetime series utilizes a team of experienced reporters, including several Medill graduates, to cover stories that are personality-driven, with “more nuanced sides,” Forbes said.

The show has aired five episodes since February. Topics have ranged from a profile of the first Black Maryland governor to barbershop culture.

Covering “angles that haven’t gotten much attention” is a priority, Forbes said, and reporters are able to achieve this through the unique format of the show.

CBS anchorman and reporter, Maurice DuBois (BSJ '87), appreciates the longer video style of the newsmagazine. In regular news broadcasts, reporters get only a couple minutes to tell a story.

“Oftentimes, we just get to the headlines. In this case, we got behind them,” DuBois said.

America in Black allots 11 minutes for the interview segment, a large difference from dimly covering the headlines. The larger chunk of time allows for exploration of different topics. DuBois said it has provided him the opportunity to use his journalistic chops.

With his profile on Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, the extra time allotted for additional background and context “to press the governor,” the reporter said.

DuBois said being able to expand stories is important, especially in the characterization of Black people in the media and by news.

“We are not just one dimensional, but real people with trials and tribulations – not caricatures,” Dubois said.

DuBois credited his time in Medill for helping him realize his passion for telling different stories. Upon being asked if he wanted to ask people questions for a living by a professor, Dubois realized his answer was yes, because he likes to learn by asking questions, he said.

Dubois said the class he took in broadcast journalism his final year at NU inspired his career in the field. Former Medill professor Gary Cummings was the first to believe he had a knack for broadcast, he said. Cummings turned out to be instrumental in launching Dubois’ career, helping him get his first job in Seattle.

After an over 30-year career, the broadcast journalist said, “I’m always indebted to him and Medill for that.”

CBS News congressional correspondent, Nikole Killion (BSJ & MSJ '99) agreed that with “America in Black” she is able to tell a story in ways not possible with other formats, like CBS Evening or CBS Morning News.

“[It's] an incredibly valuable and really sacred opportunity,” Killion said.

She reports for the show along with teaching at NU as a lecturer at the Washington D.C. Medill on the Hill program. Even with a vibrant career in journalism, the news magazine show stands as a highlight, Killion said.

Killion covered African American voters in her story for America in Black. She said there is a tendency to lump groups, particularly ethnic, into similar voting trends. However, the reality is very complex.

“None of these communities are monoliths,” Killion said.

The reporter spoke to African American communities from D.C. to Georgia, visiting barbershops and black churches to measure voter sentiments. She added it has been very rewarding to cover these communities in an intensive and thoughtful way.

Producer Forbes echoed the idea. Also associate producer for CBS’s Race and Culture Unit, an addition in 2020 to promote diversity in CBS’s work and atmosphere, he said he understands the uniqueness of his position and the work in the conversation of race in America.

The BET and CBS producer said he finds satisfaction from being able to tell the diverse stories in this format.

“They're just American stories. They're just human stories,” Forbes said.