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The ‘new guard’ in black media

Joy-Ann Reid, Managing Editor, theGriot

By Tracie Powell

The black press began in 1827 when John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish started Freedom’s Journal in New York. Black newspapers were most popular during the 1920’s and ’30s, when major papers virtually ignored black America (they wouldn’t even run African American obituaries). 

Black newspapers and magazines were once the dominant means of communication for African Americans, as depicted in the documentary “Soldiers Without Swords.” But with circulations in free fall, their continued relevance had been questioned in recent years.

Coverage of Trayvon Martin’s story is turning that idea on its head. READ MORE


Tracie Powell is a regular contributor to Poynter Online and Vice Chair of Education & Policy of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force. 



Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

One thought on “The ‘new guard’ in black media

  1. The Trayvon Martin story is a seminal moment in time for the Black Press. While it is true, Black Press newspapers publish weekly, they still missed the Martin story for several weeks. And publishing weekly doesn’t preclude getting stories told in a timely manner online. And if online isn’t a priority investment, then there won’t be a Black Press to speak of in the next decade.

    It makes me recoil a bit to think that the White-owned media platforms of The Grio, The Root and Black Voices would ever be considered the “new guard,” as in the headline above. All of those platforms exist at the pleasure of their White owners. And all businesses have life cycles. The Black folks at those orgs don’t control those life cycles because they don’t own anything.

    Additionally, while doing exemplary work on Trayvon Martin stories, those aforementioned platforms completely missed the most significant story with historical impact in this generation.

    Although owned by MSNBC and The Washington Post, The Grio and The Root both missed coverage of the advent of “crowdfunding” as a historical 21st century transitioning of the American innovation process, which opens formerly closed doors of access to those historically prohibited from participation. The WaPo and MSNBC have many stories on the crowdfunding issue. Black media are silent.

    The problem with such silence is it reveals a journalist and editorial disconnect with the impact of economic legislation upon Black America.

    In an era in which a Black president signs into law a historic opportunity for Black Americans to participate in the American economy in a way that has never been allowed in the history of the nation, it is ironic that Black media and Black Americans remain disconnected while White Americans race past us into the new economic frontier to stake their claims.

    It is good for Black media to assert coverage of important controversies that depict the stereotypical problems resulting from the manner in which young Black men are perceived. Still, it is most assuredly important that Black Americans are informed about the economic opportunities emerging as this nation evolves.

    To be certain, the White media landscape has little regard to how economic policies impact non-Whites. And thus, it is crucial that Black media ALSO use their platforms to inform, engage, discuss, debate, investigate and conduct all the due diligence on the JOBS Act and its crowdfunding opportunities for developing urban innovation ecosystems, job growth and new wealth.

    It is a stark contrast to see how much traction the crowdfunding issue is gaining across America while Black folks remain largely disconnected from the historic transitioning of the American economy occurring in their favor.

    And in case anyone wonders why I haven’t provided such information to Black media outlets, I have two responses:

    1. I have tried. It would be helpful to know how to engage media orgs that don’t respond to outreach.

    2. I have written on the issue several times myself:

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