by M. Anthony Davis
After his coverage of protests against police brutality this summer, Omari Salisbury has become one of the most prominent names in local media. Salisbury, along with the media company he founded, Converge Media, has been thrust into local and national attention for being on the front lines of protest and for streaming powerful images of tear gas and civil unrest directly into living rooms and on to the devices of spectators and concerned citizens in our region and across the country.
But, Salisbury is more than a “citizen journalist,” as he’s often referred to in media reports. He is more than just a guy with a red iPhone streaming live protest footage to thousands of viewers — which, in and of itself, is arguably a major achievement. Salisbury is an accomplished journalist with a career that spans decades. That career started at Garfield High School writing for the school paper and eventually led to him working in media across the globe.
“I was a writer at Garfield High School for the Messenger,” Salisbury explains. “I was writing op-eds for the [Seattle] PI when I was in high school. From there I was on college radio WRVS 89.9 at Elizabeth City State University, where I was Black College Broadcaster of the Year. From there I went on to AND1 and worked with the AND1 Basketball Network as a writer and a producer …”
This Saturday, November 14, the Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) will be hosting an online conversation curated by KING 5’s Joyce Taylor, where Salisbury will tell his story from beginning to end. We’ll get to hear all the missing details from media stories that deemed him to be anything less than the esteemed career journalist he is. And to be clear, Salisbury is a longtime citizen of Seattle — he grew up in the Central District and is proud to use his platform to highlight stories and people important to Seattle’s Black community — but he is also a credentialed journalist and he’s excited about this opportunity to be recognized by his esteemed colleagues at the SABJ.
“It’s a very big deal for me,” Salisbury says of his upcoming interview. “This is an organization that I’ve always held in high regard ever since my days in college radio at a historically Black college university at Elizabeth City State University. The NABJ, the National Association of Black Journalists, was always an organization that I held in high regard.”
While Salisbury pointed out in all seriousness how special it was to him to be recognized by the SABJ (which is an affiliate chapter of the NABJ), he also chuckled as he told me, “I’m like a little kid in a candy store.” Over the last few months of being interviewed by KIRO, KVRU, and Seattle Met (just to name a few), the biggest highlight for him was a follow he received on Twitter.
“Essex Porter followed me on Twitter,” Salisbury says. “It’s a big deal. I called my momma. The stuff that’s exciting for other people be like: ‘oh man, you were on Nightline,’ and I’m like ‘yeah.’ But, when Essex Porter followed me, it was crazy. I was like, ‘yo, this is big time.’”
Salisbury is honored to be regarded next to the names of journalists he watched growing up. He tells me about how excited he was to meet KIRO 7’S Deborah Horne for the first time and what it’s like having the opportunity to sit down with Joyce Taylor for an interview after years of watching her.
“These are people that I looked up to, and still look up to. I think that’s probably what makes it a real big deal to me. Being welcomed into the club of journalists I looked up to and admire. It’s an honor, and I don’t take it lightly. It’s an honor to sit and talk with Joyce Taylor for 90 minutes and have a real dope discussion.”
After the conversation with Taylor, there will be a Q&A session where Salisbury will answer questions from audience members. He promises to bring the energy from the Converge Media Morning Update Show, so this should be a lively discussion.
Before concluding our conversation, Salisbury reflected on the significance of being a kid from the CD who created a nationally recognized media platform. He tells me, “I don’t take this lightly. There’s kids right now in the CD and the South End who hit me and ask, ‘yo, how can I get into podcasting? How can I get into TV?’ That’s somebody who might have been like, ‘man, what’s up with the local gang? How can I go sell dope.’ But they see somebody who’s a journalist on KOMO 4, on CNN, or on ABC News, and people respecting their opinions and they’re being seen. This is changing the way that our young people look at this craft. So, I hold all of this so tight.”
BLACK VOICES MATTER: Behind The Lines With Journalist Omari Salisbury
Sat., Nov. 14, 2020
3–4:30 p.m. PST
Get tickets on Eventbrite (GA $10; students $5).
M. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture, and sports.
Featured image courtesy of Omari Salisbury. (Photo: Jake Gravbrot, Converge Media)
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