Jemele Hill, a senior columnist and correspondent for ESPN’s The Undefeated and former co-host of SC6, was selected Monday as the 2018 “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists, which cited her “provocative commentary” on the intersection of sports and politics.
“Hill nearly broke the internet last year when she criticized President Donald Trump,” the association said in a statement . “She also, taking up the NABJ spirit of advocacy, addressed athletes’ rights to take a knee to protest police brutality.”
Hill drew the ire of Trump and his supporters when she referred to the president as a “white supremacist” and “an unfit, bigoted incompetent moron” on Twitter in September, a move that caused While House press secretary Sarah Huckabee to publicly call on ESPN to fire Hill.
On Tuesday morning, the Fox News opinion show "Fox & Friends" mocked Hill and the NABJ over the award, with Lawrence Jones, editor in chief of the conservative education website Campus Reform, kicking off an error-filled three-minute segment by incorrectly saying Hill was unemployed.
“The National Black Association of Journalism is literally saying now, ‘we’re going to applaud unemployment,’ and that’s not something I stand for,” Jones said, also misstating the name of the organization.
None of the hosts corrected Jones.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade was also incorrect when he suggested it was new for the NABJ to give the annual award to a columnist. In 2014, the award went to Detroit Free Press Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Stephen Henderson. Other pundits who have been honored over the years include syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, former CNN commentator Roland Martin and former Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker.
Despite the error-filled segment, Ainsley Earhardt correctly pointed out that ratings for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, now hosted by Temple grad Kevin Negandhi and Sage Steele, are up since Hill and former co-host Michael Smith left the show. ESPN boasted about the ratings increase in a press release that some sports media pundits noted seemed like subtle criticism of both Hill and Smith.
Pundits weigh in: Sports media pundits and reporters were quick to weigh in after the segment aired on Tuesday morning.
“I just assumed it was a clever parody. That can’t be a real segment on a major American cable channel,” Newsday columnist Neil Best wrote on Twitter.
“The Fox & Friends segment I tweeted out on @jemelehill is spectacular. It should be hung in a museum,” wrote The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch.
“To be fair, they cover the NABJ and its efforts in great detail,” the Big Lead’s Kyle Koster joked. “Passion project for them.”
“It’s got everything — shade, misdirection, ignorance of the facts, a complete misunderstanding of the difference between journalism and entertainment — and pictures of Jemele!” wrote former ESPN writer Jane McManus.
Hill herself joked about the segment.
On Tuesday afternoon, Fox & Friends tweeted out a correction to the segment on its Twitter account, noting that Hill is currently employed by ESPN.
The NABJ: The NABJ, the nation’s largest organization of journalists of color, was founded in 1975 by 44 reports and editors who sought a group that could advocate on behalf of black journalists. Among them were several veteran Philadelphia journalists, including Acel Moore of the Inquirer, Chuck Stone of the Daily News, and Claude Lewis and Joe Davidson of the Evening Bulletin.
“This is an incredible honor,” Hill said of winning the award. “NABJ changed my life, and to accept this award in my hometown at this year’s convention is humbling. To God be the glory. I love you NABJ family.”
The award will be presented Aug. 4 at the NABJ Convention and Career Fair at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.