Being a Black Journalist: Interview with Donovan X. Ramsey

Donovan X. Ramsey is a Columbus, OH native that has broken into the journalism world through hard work and dedication of journalistic pieces that puts value and significance on race and class. This multimedia journalist explains the importance of his experiences with his own website and networking skills and the advice to other uprising black journalists like himself.

Donovan X. Ramsey
Donovan X. Ramsey (Photo taken by Shayan Asgharnia for Okayplayer).

1) Where are you from?

Ramsey: I’m from the great state of Ohio.

2) What high school did you attend?

Ramsey: I attended a public school. Nothing really remarkable about the experience.

3) You graduated from Morehouse College, what did you study?

Ramsey: I majored in psychology at Morehouse.

4) Did any of your experiences shape you before you went to Morehouse?

Ramsey: I believe that everything a person experiences in life shapes them. In terms of important moments in my upbringing, I would say that growing up poor had a profound impact on the way I see the world. I went to college because I wanted to make money and my experience in college ultimately helped me find my passion for writing, which I believe is my purpose.

5) Did you go to graduate school for journalism? If so, what school?

Ramsey: I studied journalism the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the “J-School” for short.

6) What was your mission of combining psychology and journalism?

Ramsey: I initially intend to study both psychology and journalism. I entered Morehouse with the goal of becoming a civil rights attorney but fell in love with journalism while working on the school paper. Before long, I was managing editor of the paper at Morehouse and thinking about a career in journalism. I was blessed, though, because my mentor at Morehouse—a psychology professor—had also attended Morehouse for undergrad where he studied psychology and worked on the paper. After he graduated, the went to the J-School and had a brief career as a journalist. He encouraged me to pursue journalism and wrote a recommendation for me to get into Columbia.

7) What is your current occupation?

Ramsey: I’m a journalist and currently a deputy editor at Complex.com.

8) What do you like most about your career?

Ramsey: I enjoy that I get to learn something new every day and talk to pretty much whoever I want. Being a journalist makes me feel connected to other people and like there’s nothing in the world I can’t understand and help explain.

9) Are you happy of where you are at? If not, where would you like to be and how do you think you can get there?

Ramsey: I’m a very blessed man and am very happy with the trajectory of my life—though I wish I had more hours in the day to enjoy life that much more.

10) What is your connection to the black community besides just being another black journalist?

Ramsey: As a black person, I can’t help but be connected to other black people and the community at large. I have worked to understand, deepen and leverage that connection over the years in many ways: I attended an HBCU, have written for black publications and write primarily on issues that impact the black community in America.

11) When did you create your website? And why?

Ramsey: I created my website after graduating from journalism school. I created it to be my headquarters on the web, a place where I could always host my work and place where people can find me.

12) How did/do you network? LinkedIn? Internships?

Ramsey: Internships are important because they allow people to actually experience you as a professional and Twitter is a great way to meet people in your industry.

13) Are you a member of National Association of Black Journalist? If not, would you try to become a member?

Ramsey: I used to be a member of the NABJ but am not any longer. Nothing against the organization, but I don’t think they offer things that I need for my professional growth and development.

14) What do you expect to achieve by being a black journalist in America?

Ramsey: I don’t expect I’ll achieve anything. I just hope to do the work in a way that makes me happy, is accurate and ethical, and actually sheds light on important issues.

15) How did you overcome any challenges being a black journalist?

Ramsey: Again, hard work.

16) I am double majoring in journalism/professional writing and African-American Studies (I have a blog and a Twitter), where do I go from here?

Ramsey: If you intend to be a professional writer, you should write. Write every day, develop your voice and a beat. Opportunities will open up for you based on how well you cultivate your gift and mission.

17) What is your advice for black students scared to break into the world of journalism?

Ramsey: Abandon all fear and dive headfirst in the work. Nobody can deny quality stories told well. Making a career is hard, but it’ll only be possible if you’re good at what you do. There is no way to get around the hard work.

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