By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO

The National Association of Black Journalists will bestow one of its most prestigious awards to John Watson, an associate professor of journalism at American University, for his efforts in ensuring newsrooms and news coverage reflects the diverse communities it serves, the association announced July 16.

Watson will receive the association’s Ida B. Wells Award, named after the Chicago feminist and journalist who led an anti-lynching movement in the 1890s.

Associate Professor John Watson (Courtesy Photo/NABJ)

“I am honored, humbled and encouraged by this recognition,” Watson

said in a statement. “I see it not as a reward for what I have done in the past, but encouragement to stay on track in the future. It’s recognition of the fact that everyday people like me, someone who does not have the impressive public profile of prior recipients, have an important role to play in expanding newsroom diversity. It’s not only a noble crusade, it’s an every-day professional duty for us all.”

Watson, who received his law degree from the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey, teaches journalism ethics and communication law at American University in Washington, D.C. His professional career spans more than four decades in journalism and has included everything from editing, teaching, reporting and mentoring. At one point, he served as director of American University’s journalism division.

Amy Eisman, the division’s current director, said Watson is someone who has “devoted his professional life to ensuring journalists of color not only have a seat at the table, but a voice and support. John has made this effort his focus, regardless of whether he was a reporter, editor or professor.”

“John makes a tremendous difference, and we are glad that the world gets to see it,” Eisman said in a statement.

Watson started pushing for diversity early on as The Jersey Journal’s first Black reporter in 1975. He spent 21 years at the paper, becoming its first Black city editor and recruiting and hiring dozens of talented journalists of color.

He also helped secure journalism scholarships through NABJ’s New Jersey Chapter for high school students. At the same time, he was teaching at Rutgers University and New Jersey City University.

“NABJ is pleased to highlight the work of Dr. Watson,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said in a statement. “His career is a testament to the impact of diversity and inclusion as he has shepherded the careers of hundreds of journalists as a newsroom manager and now he works to train the next generation as an educator.”

Watson will receive his award in Detroit Friday Aug. 3 at the 2018 NABJ Convention and Career Fair during the association’s Hall of Fame Luncheon.