Lifestyle | December 4th, 2023

FAMU SJGC Alumnus Wins Edward R. Murrow Award

By: Mycah Brown
FAMU SJGC Alumnus Wins Edward R. Murrow Award

Florida A&M University graduates continue thriving long after their time on “The Hill.”

Michael Lee, a 1998 graduate of FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication newspaper journalism program, was recently recognized for his work with The Washington Post as an integral part of producing two of their latest award-winning projects.

After leaving his hometown, Kansas City, Mo., Lee found himself on FAMU’s campus, where he became involved with student publications, like The FAMUAN, that introduced him to the world of news and media.

During his senior year of high school, a young Mike Lee had a conversation with a professor from Howard University in which he inquired about which would be the best Historically Black College or University to pursue journalism.

“He said that what was special about FAMU is that they had an accredited program that also provided opportunities for internships, which he said would be the key to having a career in journalism,” Lee said. “That stood out to me when I was in high school, and then when I went to FAMU, that’s exactly what it turned out to be.”

Although the newspaper journalism major no longer exists at FAMU, the skills Lee developed in SJGC prepared him to lead a successful career in news broadcasting, specializing in sports journalism.

Once his time in undergraduate school came to an end, Lee took on positions at some impressive companies, like The Atlanta Journalism Constitution, The Washington Post as a Washington Wizards beat writer, and Yahoo Sports before returning to The Washington Post. Now, in his current position, he writes about the intersection between race and sports.

His recent work has received recognition from a few notable journalistic societies, like the Edward Murrow Awards and The Online News Association.

The Edward R. Murrow Awards were created in 1971 to honor the late reporter who set the standard for broadcast news reporting. In his lifetime, Murrow was recognized with multiple Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globe Awards.

The Radio Television Digital News Association created the award to recognize journalists with outstanding editorial practices.

FAMU alum Michael Lee was recognized with one of these prestigious awards for his role in the production of “Black Out” as a sports enterprise reporter. Through visual production, the project captured the stories of the living 24 Black men who became head football coaches of NFL teams. Lee, along with Washington Post Senior Producer Jayne Orenstein, hosted 16 of the coaches for on-camera interviews, taking a deeper dive into their careers and the paths it took to get there.

“For me, it was a great thing because I’m a print guy, and I have been my whole life,” Lee said. “So to get recognized in another lane is pretty significant and pretty exciting.”

Another group, The Online News Association, recognized “Black Out” with an Online Journalism Award. The story follows a discrimination lawsuit filed by the former Miami Dolphins coach, Brian Flores, against the National Football League.

While reporting, journalists would investigate what they would determine as unfair hiring and firing practices in the NFL and its effect on Black coaches.

Through their research, The Post found that Black coaches were unable to convert their interim positions to full-time head coaching positions at the same margin as their white counterparts. Their investigative journalism allowed for a deeper dive into the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which was established to implement diversifying changes within careers in the league.

“I really thought it would be a grieving session where coaches would complain about racism in the NFL and how they were denied opportunities,” Lee said. “But really it became a celebration of these men who were able to break through in a place where not many have.”

For their performance on the production of this story, Michael Lee and his colleagues, fellow journalists at the Washington Post, earned the award for the Sports, Health and Wellness under the Large Newsroom category for the Online Journalism Awards.

This film beat three more finalists for the winning title in 2023.

On Oct. 9, Lee attended the Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City, where he received his award and was celebrated for all the hard work he’s contributed. As Michael Lee continues to thrive and do well in his career, his accolades inspire current and future Florida A&M journalism students with aspirations of pursuing similar paths.