Behind the Headlines with Jamilah Lemieux

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Social media leverage and a keen understanding of your audience are vital to standing out in the marketplace.

Jamilah Lemieux, the VP of News and Men’s Programming with Interactive One, explains how she has branded herself and stays focused on her goals to produce smart, timely content.

In this interview, Jamilah discusses the most gratifying moments of the communications field, how members of the media can shape important conversations, and strategies to approach breaking news in an honest and insightful manner.

Congratulations on being named the new VP at Interactive One! What are you most excited for in your new role as ­­­­­­the Vice President of News and Men’s Programming? What are you hoping to bring to these publications and where do you see them going (strategy, direction, and/ or content)?

Thank you! I can’t share the specifics about what I am planning just yet, but I am excited to be partnered with Kierna Mayo again.  We have a history of changing how Black media approaches the news of the day and, in particular, issues of race, gender and sexuality…and we are looking forward to continuing to do this at iOne!

How did you get your start in Communications?

I started a blog my senior year in college, after years of being told, “You should be a writer,” but not having much interest in writing. Within a few years, it consumed me and I realized that I wanted to work in the media.

What has been your favorite moment or accomplishment in your career thus far? What enabled you to get to that point?

I’ve won some awards and been on a few lists, but the most gratifying moments for me are when I’m out in public and someone comes up to me and says, “Thank you. Thank you for telling our stories, thank you for telling the truth.” Or, “I’ve learned a lot from you,” which I hear often from young Black men, which is so gratifying—knowing that my love of our people comes through in the work that I produce. That’s my biggest goal here, to talk to and about Black people in an honest way for a global audience, to document our triumphs and our struggles, to affirm our humanity.

You are well known for your commanding social media presence– how do you leverage social media to best serve you? How do you think social media affects a publication’s missions and goals? What can be the biggest mistakes and pitfalls when it comes to social media leverage?

When it comes to social media, I was an early adopter. I had a blog before many of my peers, I joined Twitter in 2008—before most folks. It has been my greatest tool, in terms of amplifying my individual voice, promoting work and connecting with a large audience.  I consider social media a gift and a curse, for individuals and publications alike. Without a true understanding of the proverbial lay of the land, a compassionate and kind person can look like a monster, a capable journalist can look like a hack and a noteworthy publication can look like a trashy rag. If you or your team don’t understand how to navigate ‘Black Twitter,’ then you shouldn’t consider ‘Black Twitter’ a place to go poking around. Hire people who understand social media to lead your efforts there.

As far as individual journalists go, think about your long-term goals and the identity you have carved out for yourself. Are you an opinion writer, or a reporter? Not everyone can get away with expressing himself or herself the way that I do. That doesn’t make me a special snowflake, but I’ve branded myself in a particular way that works for me, but won’t work for everyone in this business.

You are known for having a huge amount of passion, knowledge and expertise on issues surrounding social justice and race relations. How do you hope to use your new role as a platform to further conversations on these topics? What role do you see iOne taking in shaping these conversations?

I’m excited to help expand Interactive One’s multimedia content offerings at a time where there is a particularly urgent need for smart, well-produced coverage of these sensitive issues. Black lives matter to this company and they matter to our readers and viewers. Now, it’s time to sharpen the ways in which we express that.

This is a pivotal time in history when it comes to American race relations and finally seeing it at the forefront of American conversations. How do you see those conversations evolving and where would you like them to go? How do you hope to continue shaping them? Are there certain strategies you will employ or find effective to make that vision a reality?

These conversations require intellectual honesty, courage and an understanding of history—and I think the average person hasn’t been challenged to possess those values, or to apply them to these issues. Our writers, content creators and thought leaders must have the ability to lead them to that place.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in communications?

Manage your expectations. Don’t measure your career trajectory against anyone else’s, or look at anyone else as your barometer for success. Work hard, stay humble and remember that people who work in communications must be good at communicating! Don’t hit up someone via Twitter DM’s or Facebook asking for a byline or a job! Use this access to people in your field wisely and perfect the art of networking.

Rapid Fire Round!

  1.      My favorite snack is…. I don’t snack, so coffee?
  2.      If I was a superhero, my name would be… Cleopatra Jones and I’d have the power to defeat the patriarchy.
  3.      My life philosophy is…. “A better world is possible.”
  4.      If I was president of my own country I would… provide significant family leave, long vacations and legalize true equality.
  5.      My hidden talent is…. I am the Gordon Parks of bathroom selfies.
  6.      My favorite electronic device is… My iPhone, aka my third hand.


About Julia Rabin

Julia Rabin is a former Media Researcher for Cision. With a background in organizational communications, public speaking and international relations, she has a passion for social justice advocacy and loves keeping up to date with the latest global news. In her free time, you will find Julia traveling, playing with puppies, baking dairy free treats or reading.

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