The backbone of our work
The 1968 Kerner Commission Report found the news media shockingly negligent in its inclusion of African Americans, and a major factor in why society was increasingly divided. It concluded, “The painful process of readjustment that is required of the American news media must begin now.”
Fast-forward 50 years and diversity among staff and leadership is still inadequate, leaving our newsrooms ill-equipped to tell complete stories. At the same time, revenue is plummeting. In local news, almost 75% of revenue goes to Google, Facebook and Amazon which returns a negligible amount to those who create the content that fuel their networks. Corporations and shareholders are gutting the news industry from the inside.
Philanthropy has stepped into the void, but most funds are given to just a few national, investigative news organizations. Those that are founded by or primarily serve people of color are notably absent from foundations’ largest investments.
In truth, this system of inequity is operating exactly as intended. From the removal of second-class mailing privileges for the Black press in the 1910s and 20s to the lack of capitalization of diverse media today, there has been a resource redlining that concentrates power in the hands of white men.
When the government began regulating broadcasters in the 1920s, it took 20 years for a single Black radio station owner to obtain a license. Today, people of color own less than 1% of the value of television and radio outlets.
And yet, through these decades, marginalized people have continued to build incredible organizations of immense value to the US media landscape. People of color published more than 100 newspapers before the Civil War and vibrant media companies endure and flourish today. Scholars recall our history to remind us that, yes, we have been here all along.
We are building a new kind of public media, one that harnesses and rewards this legacy.
Here is our growing reading room, where you can learn more. It features some of the work of our allies whose visions have inspired us every step of the way. Their work convinces us that the time for New Public is now.
Views on history and how it relates to now
Joshunda Sanders’ “How Racism and Sexism Killed Traditional Media” (2015) provides a thought-provoking overview on how the history of exclusion has harmed communities and our industry.
Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres’ “News for All the People” (2012) is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of US news media.
What could media reparations look like? The illuminating FreePress report and project Media 2070 begins the important work of dreaming our future.
Lewis Raven Wallace’s View From Somewhere is a book, podcast and way of thinking about journalism that challenges the norms of our institution.
David Honig’s “How the FCC Suppressed Minority Broadcast Ownership, and How the FCC Can Undo the Damage it Caused” published in 2018 in the Southern Journal of Policy and Justice, questions our regulatory system and the harm it has caused.
Yanick Rice Lamb and Carolyn M. Byerly’s article “Kerner @ 50 Looking Forward; Looking Back”, in the Howard Journal of Communications in 2019, is an essential review of the 1968 report that is still instructive today. See also Paul Delaney’s essay for USA Today, “Kerner report at 50: Media diversity still decades behind.”
We must do better. Here’s why.
Carla Murphy’s 2020 survey of people who have left news media, “Leavers,” is a call to action to protect the talented journalists we need to reform our industry.
The 2014 American Press Institute report “The Personal News Cycle” has a chapter about African Americans and Hispanic views of news media offers important information about the lack of service and trust we have provided.
The racial justice organization Color of Chang published “A Dangerous Distortion of Our Families in 2017 about how we represent (or don’t represent) Black people in news.
“Decades of Failure,” by Gabriel Arana in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2018, makes clear how poorly we’ve done diversifying our nation’s newsrooms.
The advocacy organization Avaaz’s 2020 study, “Facebook's Algorithm:
A Major Threat to Public Health” indicates that forces of misinformation are using Facebook’s (flawed) algorithm much better than those that are offering facts. News media has not been able to cut through well enough. Researcher Fadi Quran talks about the Avaaz Facebook study on On the Media.
How to do better (and do better journalism)
Always helpful: Robin J. Ely and David A. Thomas’s 2020 Harvard Business Review article, “Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case.”
An incredible local news organization in Chicago offers a guide to assessing journalistic work in “Metrics to Match Our Mission: Measuring City Bureau’s Impact.”
The Maynard Institute offers a kit called “Reality Checks” for analyzing news content for accurate representation.
Angilee Shah’s “Building equity in collaborations,” published by the Center for Cooperative Media, provides frameworks for partnerships and challenges to how our industry does and does not reward organizations owned and run by people of color.
Working papers and guides on funding and investment
Frontline Solutions 2020 “Equity First” report challenges foundations to reform the way they support diverse media makers.
Tracie Powell and Jean Marie Browns’ “The Ecosystem of Media Outlets Led By and For People of Color,” published by Borealis Philanthropy in 2019, gives us a picture of 114 media organizations led by and serving people of color.
The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s “Nonprofit Diversity Efforts: Current Practices and the Role of Foundations (2018)” is a broader look at diversity among nonprofit organizations.
Dotconnector Studio and Democracy Fund’s 2019 report, “Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Journalism: What Funders Can Do,” explains how funders have often exacerbated problems in the news industry by reinforcing hegemonic norms.
“Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens: A Practical Guide” is Rinku Sen and Lori Villarosa’s 2020 publication that is exactly as it sounds.
Joshua Benton’s reporting in Nieman Lab on technology companies and news media revenue is essential, including from 2020, “Google paying publishers” is more about PR than the needs of the news industry.”
Laura Flander’s 2017 “Next System Media: An Urgent Necessity” is essential reading for thinking about our larger media ecosystem and how it has evolved.
From the Brookings Institute, 2020, “Utilities for democracy: Why and how the algorithmic infrastructure of Facebook and Google must be regulated” Josh Simons and Dipayan Ghosh provide great insight into the forces that shape our news consumption.
Pat Garofalo’s 2020 American Economic Liberties Project working paper, “Close to Home: How the Power of Facebook and Google Affects Local Communities,” puts critical numbers to our local news economy.
Directories and listings of organizations you can follow and support
The Center for Community Media at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism keeps excellent directories of local news outlets.
The Listening Post Collective’s #statesofnews project is highlighting information outlets across the country, and Angilee Shah has a growing Twitter list of these plus other equity-focused news organizations.