The New York Association of Black Journalists is hearing from the media (social and otherwise) about the decision to award a journalism prize to singer Beyonce Knowles at its awards ceremony next week.

Knowles is being honored for her July 2011 Essence cover story, “Eat, Play, Love,” about taking a break from her grueling work schedule to travel and relax. It’s a shallow piece of dubious journalistic merit beyond the draw of its famous byline. A representative quotation:

I had no schedule while taking in the sites of Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and my favorite Aussie city, Sydney. They have the best restaurants and the harbor is awesome. It was a carefree existence for me.

“We had to edit her, but everyone gets edited except Toni Morrison,” Essence’s entertainment director told the New York Daily News. (I wonder what preceded descriptors like “awesome.”)

Diction aside, the piece is devoid of any sense of the singer’s interiority. She relates details of her far-flung travels but never pauses to reflect on any spiritual or emotional growth spurred by her frequent-flier miles.

It’s the magic of words to images to deeper meanings that produces the first-person pieces readers dog-ear and keep by their beds. I’m not saying Beyonce should be Joan Didion, or that she shouldn’t have written the Essence piece. But in bestowing its awards, the NYABJ should have considered good work ahead of publicity.

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Kira Goldenberg
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