EDITOR’S NOTE: Long-time National Association of Black Journalists icon, and the first woman elected president of the black journalists association, died on Tuesday. Admirers flooded social media with tributes, but this one by entertainment journalist Patrick L. Riley stood out. Not only because he is one of the thousands Estes helped usher into journalism, but also because he describes poignantly how Sumpter impacted journalism for all women, not just journalists of color. In 2014, Estes was recognized by The History Makers, for the impact she made in the journalism industry.
By PATRICK L. RILEY
I got news of her passing after midnight, and couldn’t lift myself from my fetal position to post anything nor could I lift myself out of bed to turn the computer on to email something.
I just laid there until the pain subsided and I fell asleep to dreams of a time when Sidmel took a chance on me and the many reflections came flooding through. Well, I’m up now… and the news is still true…. and I did get out of bed knowing there would be a sea of condolences and memories on social media…and RIGHTLY SO!
Sidmel Estes Sumpter was not only the first woman president of the National Association of Black Journalists, she paved the way so that ALL WOMEN MANAGERS – and ALL BLACK JOURNALISTS and JOURNALISTS OF COLOR who want the opportunity to work can stand firm in their calling and WORK! And as one of the first two producers she hired for the now-iconic GOOD DAY ATLANTA, which she executive produced, Sidmel showed of what she was made. She hired this reporter trainee from WSB-TV who was interested in the entertainment/news mix of morning TV to learn not only how to build a morning news show, she gave me my first opportunities to grow a gift for conducting interviews and to build my “pop culture expert/entertainment reporter” reel through a number of Atlanta-based opportunities that would have New York City calling in 1995.
Sidmel didn’t want me to leave her or WAGA, but she knew she had to let me go. In our last, in-depth chat, she acknowledged that she was being selfish and shouldn’t have tried to hold me back from trying to take my career to the next level, but she loved having me at GOOD DAY ATLANTA with her and she explained that I was one of her “BABIES” – a term of endearment she called us all, and, in turn, those of us who have come up through the student pipeline are coined #NABJBABIES. In our last chat a couple of years ago at the NABJ convention in Orlando, Sidmel told me how proud she was of what I made of myself – as producer, talent, and man, something she pointed out that she knew I was figuring out when we worked together when I was 22 and 23 years old.
Well, like Sid, I can acknowledge that I am being selfish and trying to hold her back from leaving us now and taking her life’s destiny and legacy to the next level. She is one of my “INDUSTRY MOMS” after all! She took a chance on me at the beginning, and so many thousands and thousands of others – including putting the fire under us entertainment beat journalists to start the NABJ Arts & Entertainment Task Force!
Sidmel was spirited, fierce, pioneering, full of love, and she did an awesome job while here on earth; indeed jumping over the moon to be with her parents again in heaven.
This, as we keep her family, especially her sons Joshua and Sidney, in our prayers. Though a sad moment in time that will reverberate for the rest of their lives, they should be so proud because she loved her boys. We will love Sidmel Estes Sumpter forever.