In a webinar with Black PR Wire, The State of Black Media 2023, a panel of media experts and professionals, moderated by Traci Cloyd, shared their candid and powerful insights on Black media in America today. The discussion touched on several topics including trends in Black media, the role of social media and Black Twitter, advice for those getting started in the media industry, and more.

Below are three points the panel thoughtfully discussed.

Black Media and Black-Owned Media

When referring to Black media and Black-owned media, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. Cheryl Thompson-Morton, Black Media Initiative Director at the Center for Community Media, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, explained that generally speaking, “Black media” refers to outlets that target Black audiences. “Black-owned media is not just about targeting communities, it’s about who owns the outlet and who benefits from resources being generated,” said Thompson-Morton.

“Black ownership matters,” Thompson-Morton shared, and the number of Black people who own media outlets is low. Nielsen research shows “the need for trusted voices to herald the issues, trends, and triumphs of Black Americans remains clear” and “Black audiences are driving demand for content where their identity is represented ... and Black-owned media plays an important part in providing representative content to the diverse Black community.”

With an aim to be a one-stop resource for Black media members, one of the Black Media Initiative’s initial tasks was creating a directory of Black media in the United States. With over 430 outlets in 38 states and Washington, D.C., more are added each year, and several are Black-owned. “We believe when Black media does their best work, our communities are better served,” said Thompson-Morton.

A report generated by the Black Media Initiative, Why Black Media Matters Now, was launched in 2020 to support Black media and shows that “Black media provides critical coverage, leads the conversation on issues of race, centers the community in coverage and connects the current news cycle to the historical fight for justice.” There are several key findingshere are just a few:

  • Black media publishes, by a factor of as high as six times, more coverage than mainstream media on issues of importance to Black communities, including racism, health disparities, and voting access.
  • Nearly one in every four (23%) articles in Black media mentioned racism or related issues, as compared with less than one in ten articles (8%) in mainstream media.
  • Black media centers the community in coverage and humanizes the individuals and groups in the news.
  • Black media used the word “Black” frequently in coverage, in an explicit naming of Black people and communities in reporting the news. 
  • Black media connects news events across subjects to cover wider issues of injustice, including threats to voting access, disparities in medical care, and policing and mass incarceration.

You can see more in-depth information and data here.

While the media industry continues to evolve every year, the important role of Black media and Black-owned media remains steadfast and continues to grow. Or, as Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper, CEO of AFRO-American Newspapers, put it: “When it’s a story that’s really important to our community, we shouldn’t be the ones picking it up from mainstream media; mainstream media should be picking it up from us.”

Connecting with Black Media

When it comes to building authentic connections with Black media and Black-owned media outlets, being yourself and being true are key. “Authenticity is important ... Authenticity means being exactly who you aresay what you mean, mean what you say,” said Rahman Johnson, Professor of Journalism and Communications at Edward Waters University.

Reaching out to Black media year-roundnot just when looking for coveragehelps build connections. Asking questions, doing research, listening, and understanding biases are all important tips for authentically building meaningful relationships.

It also doesn’t hurt to brush up on Media Relations 101. Reporters need details and anything you can do to help them tell your story will go a long way. “At the end of the day, media is just thatmedia,” Johnson explained. “As an anchor reporter, I wasn’t a Black anchor reporter. My Blackness informs what I do, but at the end of the day, I’m just a journalist, and I want every bit of information that allows me to tell an intelligent, competent story.”

Black Media and the Community

When looking to connect with Black media and Black-owned media, understanding some common misperceptions will help grow the relationship between media and organizations, as well as between media outlets and communities. Bernadette Morris, President and CEO of Black PR Wire and Sonshine Communications, shared:

  1. Black media and Black-owned media only report on stories related to racism.
    Morris explained that while racism is a key component of stories that are shared by Black media, and the way it is shared is massively important, it is not the only topic that the Black community focuses on. Relevant interests to Black audiences include health, education, welfare, sports, and more. “Everything that relates to us as people ... we report on that and share that information very passionately and creatively so that it reaches our audiences.”

  2. Black media and Black-owned media will only cover a story if advertising is also purchased.
    While being a business means finding opportunities for media buys, Morris stated that if the story is of value to the readers, it’s going to be shared regardless of ad purchases. Covering news that is important and informative to audiences comes first. But there are often opportunities for media and organizations to partner and support each otherand sometimes that includes advertising.

  3. Black media and Black-owned media are behind the times and not online.
    Morris shared that newspapers are often distributed in neighborhoods that reflect the audiences that want them, but the option to subscribe and deliver elsewhere is there. And, referring to the directory compiled by the Black Media Initiative, nearly all have an online presence.

Black Media is Resilient

Dr. Draper wrapped up the webinar with a few points on the resiliency of Black media and Black communities. “Legacy Black press has been through several major events ... they’re used to pivoting. They’re resilient in a way that other media have not had to be.” From the civil rights movement to COVID-19, Black media and Black-owned media have found ways to continue to thrive.

Be sure to watch a recording of the webinar to learn more about Black media, including best practices for PR and communications professionals for engaging with Black audiences, thoughts on Black Twitter, and more about the future of Black media.

Cheryl Thompson-Morton Rahman Johnson Dr. Frances Draper Bernadette Morris Traci Cloyd

Cheryl Thompson-Morton
Black Media Initiative Director, Center for Community Media, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Rahman Johnson
Professor of Journalism and Communications, Edward Waters University; National Anchor, iHeartMedia

Dr. Frances Draper
CEO, Afro-American Newspapers

Bernadette Morris
President & CEO, Black PR Wire; President & CEO, Sonshine Communications

Traci Cloyd (Moderator)
South Florida PBS

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