Longtime executive producer at Atlanta's WAGA-TV, consultant and journalism educator Sidmel Estes passed away Tuesday. She spent 26 years at the Fox affiliate, helping to launch and oversee the station's successful Good Day Atlanta program, before leaving in 2006 to start a consulting practice. She went on to teach at Clark Atlanta University.
Estes became the first female president of the National Association of Black Journalists in 1991, and helped organize the first UNITY conference in 1994. In the organization's remembrance, current NABJ president Sarah Glover said, "I'm so sad she is gone, but her passion and love for NABJ lives on in all of us."
She was also instrumental in bringing leaders from the UNITY member groups at the time to the table as ex-officio members of RTDNA's board of directors, which continues to this day, as representatives from NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA are part of each board meeting.
"Sidmel had a vision to advance diversity as a key way to improve how news organizations operated internally and how they covered their communities," said RTDNA Diversity Committee Chairman David Louie. "That extended to RTDNA by urging that ex-officio’s from the minority journalism associations have a place at the board level."
“Sidmel recognized the best journalism in communities came through the best understanding of all those who live in them. She helped organizations like RTDNA strive to bring many points of view to our work and to our decisions,” according to Mike Cavender, Executive Director. “Her voice will certainly be missed.”
"Sidmel was a courageous broadcaster," added RTDNF Trustee Janice Gin. "She knew how to make great TV. But I give her credit for being a brave pioneer championing diversity in America's newsrooms at a time when a lot of people preferred to avoid the word. Without her foresight, her tenacity, I know that RTDNA would not have become the diverse organization it is today without her. Though she might not have realized it, people like me would probably not be on the RTDNA board today."
Estes' longtime news director Budd McEntee told RTDNA, "My thoughts and prayers are with Sidmel and her family. Sidmel was the very first Executive Producer of Good Day Atlanta. She was passionate about the broadcast. She loved it. Sidmel enthusiastically embraced the broadcast as it grew from one to five and a half hours of live local morning news. I knew and worked with Sid for many years. I will miss her. So will many others."
You can read more in obituaries from WAGA-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.