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Ernie's back in town

Former Echo editor keynotes convocation

By Ashley Roque Echo Staff reporter
On April 28, 2010

  • Alumnus Ernie Suggs speaks at April 9 convocation. Willie Pace/Echo staff photographer

At N.C.Central University's 61st convocation, Ernie Suggs, a reporter with the Atlanta Journal Consititution,  described the Campus Echo as an "incubator" that propelled him into a successful career in journalism.

Suggs, a 1990 English graduate and Campus Echo editor-in-chief from 1987-1989, was the keynote speaker at NCCU's April 9th annual Honors Convocation, an event that  celebrates students' academics, community service and creative achievements.

Suggs described the day as one he will never forget.

"To see all of my old professors, classmates, and fraternity brothers, who came all this way to hear me speak was definitely a highlight of my life," he said.

Suggs established his reputation early in his career with an in-depth series of articles in 1997 about HBCUs called "Fighting to Survive." The stories ran in an 8 day series in the Durham Herald Sun which won   him numerous awards including, Journalist of the Year by the N.C. Black Publishers Association.

As an English undergraduate, Suggs was the sports editor at the Campus Echo his freshman and sophomore years and editor-in-chief his junior and senior years.

"Working at the Echo was the most significant thing I did during my undergraduate years," he said.

Suggs said Echo reporters did not shy away from controversial news stories while he was editor-in-chief, but noted that  NCCU administrators respected the students' freedom of speech.

After graduating, Suggs first worked with Gannett Westchester Newspapers in N.Y. for two years and then the Durham Herald Sun for five years.

While at the Herald Sun,  Suggs was assigned to cover NCCU.

"I was able to give NCCU good coverage, frequently," said Suggs.

"It's important for journalists to cover everything and not simply the things that go wrong."

Suggs was awarded a Nieman Fellowship in 2008 by Harvard University, an award given to an accomplished journalist in mid-career.

During the fellowship, Suggs studied at Harvard's African and African American Studies Department.

He has since been named a trustee with the Nieman's Foundation Board.

Suggs was emphatic during his speech and his interview about NCCU students realizing that they can succeed anywhere, including an Ivy league school like Harvard.

"At Harvard, there is this sense of entitlement that the students have," he said. "And that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Suggs said African-American students need to feel that sense of entitlement.

"We have a sense of contentment, when we should be walking around knowing that we are entitled to  good things, just as much as anyone else," he said.

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