Kelly Virella wants to bring today’s reporting into the 22nd century. Her new online magazine Urban Thinker plans to do just that. The journal will be based on in-depth, truly thought-provoking reporting on topics that are important to African-American but often go overlooked in media.
How did you start the Urban Thinker magazine?
When I first started working in a newsroom after j-school, one of the first things I noticed was how little diversity there was in terms of [news] coverage. The African-American population was only 10% in [our] area but, I started thinking about how that reflected in a lot of the news coverage on tv, even the coverage in “majority Minority” cities. A lot of “majority Minority” cities tend be very relaxed in their racially diverse news coverage. I knew then that I wanted to go into entrepreneurship and do something that was really about serving the community. As I developed more and more in journalism, I could see the tides changing in terms of what people were interested in. A lot of brands are getting into thoughtful journalism to distinguish themselves. I am creating a magazine to be a part of this moment.
How do you make long-form journalism something people will love to read in world of “quick and easy” blog posts?
It really just depends on the interest level of the individual. A lot of people swear by [long-form journalism] and some people are just not interested. One of the reasons why it is so interesting is that it’s because it’s based on characters. It’s just like you’re reading a novel, your getting into characters, you’re getting into all those elements that make it interesting for a person. It’s a form of entertainment as much as it is journalism for a reader. This is really for people who still enjoy the activity of finishing off their day with reading.
How did you go about finding reporters for the Urban Thinker?
My goal was to recruit reporters who had much experience as possible. I knew a lot experienced reporters who I was friends with. So it was really a matter of who [I knew] at the time could commit to writing something right now. So I was able to get some really cool people to write some pieces. Eventually, we will be expanding our network.
How do you plan to incorporate videojournalism into Urban Thinker?
I’m thinking about using it for front of the book or back of the book pieces. We are interested in having conversations with people who have solved various types of social or economic problems or political issues that the Black community has faced. We would give them time to talk on camera about what they did to solve these different kinds of problems.
Virella plans to uplift and inspire her readers with the intelligent journalism that we need now more than ever. Find out more about the Urban Thinker at http://www.theutmag.com/ and Kelly Virella at http://www.kellyvirella.com/.
Sadiyyah Rice is the digital intern for the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, recording secretary for the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and video editor for Higher Education Channel Television (HEC-TV).