Sam Riley, professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, recently published the two-volume encyclopedia, "African Americans in the Media Today."
Riley dedicated his work to “the countless individuals who, due to racial prejudice, were unable to find success of the kind showcased in these two volumes of biographical career sketches.”
African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the U.S. population and about 11 percent of newspaper newsroom employees are black. Black journalists began to move into mainstream media jobs in the 1970’s, and hiring accelerated in the next two decades.
Riley’s reference work details the careers of 246 African Americans, most of whom currently work in the news media; a few are recently deceased or recently retired. Entries include syndicated and local columnists, broadcast news and magazine figures, sportscasters and radio personalities. Many of the profiles include a sample column or story.
The seed for this work was planted back in 1971, when Riley was a brand new journalism professor.
“When I arrived at Temple University for my first teaching job, I shared an office for a short time with Professor Armistead Pride, a black man who was the historian of the historically black press,” said Riley. “Later I got to know Chuck Stone, a very influential Philadelphia columnist and later, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina. Knowing them made me especially interested in the progress of other African Americans who managed to get into mainstream media jobs.”
Riley is the author of 11 books about the history of magazine publishing, three about newspaper columnists, and one trade paperback. One of the reasons he decided to write this reference work was that “no one else was telling this success story.”
“The considerable strides made by people of color working in our nation’s news media have, by coincidence, largely coincided with the years I have been teaching and writing about journalism,” said Riley. “To my way of thinking, these 246 success stories, viewed collectively, tell a very important larger story of positive change in our society. It is a story that needs telling – to record recent history and, I hope, to inspire minority youngsters who might be interested in media careers.”
Riley, a resident of Blacksburg, received his bachelor’s degree from Davidson College, and a M.B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.