Beyoncé has sold millions of records and collected a shelf of Grammys, but she is about to add an unexpected award to the list: The New York Association of Black Journalists plans to honor her with a writing award at its annual banquet this month, the group announced on Wednesday.
The decision to give the pop diva an award for her cover story in Essence magazine about taking nine months off from her career to give birth has drawn fire from from some quarters on social media sites and blogs. Critics asserted that giving a writing award to a pop music figure undercut the value of the honor. But Michael Feeney, the president of the New York chapter of the black journalists association, said Beyoncé had “won fair and square.” Her article – “Eat, Play, Love” – was submitted by Essence magazine last year and a jury from the Dallas chapter judged it to be the best submission in the arts and entertainment category, he said. “I believe it was selected on content and the writing and not on her celebrity,” he said.
Mr. Feeney said more than 40 journalists are being honored at the group’s annual scholarship and awards banquet, among them several heavy hitters in the world of journalism. Robert Naylor, for instance, who spent three decades as a reporter and editor at newspapers, television stations and The Associated Press, will be given the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts to help minorities break into the news industry. “This is just one award,” he said. “I know a lot of people are upset but we are honoring a lot of outstanding journalists on that night.” He added: “Beyoncé is a role model. I hope this honor will inspire other girls to pursue a career in journalism.”
Cori Murray, the magazine’s entertainment director, told The Daily News that Beyoncé was “a real writer.” “We had to edit her, but everyone gets edited except Toni Morrison,” he said.
Still, some online columnists, like Amber Rose writing for the Mused online magazine, questioned whether Beyoncé had written the piece herself. “These types of awards overlook the real journalists who write about insightful and sometimes dangerous topics,” Ms. Rose wrote. “Beyoncé is getting an award along with Robert Naylor, a thirty-year reporter who chaired the Associated Press Diversity Council and founding member of the LGBT Task Force and the late Gil Noble, who hosted “Like It Is” since 1967 and interviewed Adam Clayton Powell, Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby and Dr. Martin Luther King. Beyoncé wrote an article about a 9-month vacation.”
The comments on Twitter were less diplomatic. “Way to celebrate real writers NABJ!!!” And Nikki Strong, a radio personality in Washington, DC, wrote: “C’mon son!.. Out of all the brilliant journalists who deserve recognition?”