This story was written in partnership with Rochester Association of Black Journalists. They are offering high school students the chance to win a $500 scholarship. The deadline to apply is May 1. Enter here.
Wyoma Best is a local pioneer.
Born March 7, 1943, in Norfolk, Virginia, Best was the first black woman to appear as a reporter for Channel 10 WHEC, the first black woman to serve on Rochester’s Board of Education and one of the first black women managers of the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce.
She was perhaps best known for her tenacity and compassion, a rare combination that made her one of the best journalists in the area. In fact, Best even helped with the return of a stolen Picasso painting. In 1978, a thief stole the painting from the Memorial Art Gallery and then called Best. He wanted to speak through her. She ultimately partnered with the FBI, taking an agent as her cameraman to catch the thief.
“She came into our living rooms every evening, and in doing so, showed all the young girls in our community what they aspire to,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement after Wyoma Best’s passing. “She may no longer be with us, but her legacy lives on.”
But decades since she got her spot in news, representation in media continues to be an issue nationwide. The Women’s Media Center finds that women of color (which includes more than black women) make up about 10 percent of newsrooms: 8 percent of print, 6 percent of local radio and 12.6 percent of local TV. Again, these numbers include all Latina, black and minority women.
The Rochester Association of Black Journalists is hoping to ease this discrepancy. In 2005, the group began giving away a scholarship to local graduating high school students. This year, students can win $500.
“RABJ’s Wyoma Best Scholarship offers more than just a dollar,” said Ericka E. Wilson, News Producer at News 10 WHEC and RABJ Treasurer. “It offers aspiring journalists, coming out of the Rochester area, an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a true television trailblazer. I am 3 years into my journalistic career and came to Rochester, a little over a year ago, to find yet another role model. Everything I have heard about her, from her beautiful skin complexion to her courageous skills in news, has influenced my work here in Rochester. I believe this scholarship will teach the awarded students the appreciation of those who come before them. Wyoma left behind the best legacy, that’s why we honor her today.”
Past winners of the scholarship include: Justin Myers, Melea Jones and Michael Frazier, Jr. Visit RABJ to learn more.