Local Media Relevance – Economic Development for Black America ( a series: part 2)

The value of media in reinvesting in communities that have struggled through disinvestment

Former President Obama mentioned in his interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN that a part of the legacy building has to include investing in local media. As you all may assume, hearing this was like music to my ears.  I believe strongly that the media plays a major part in reinvesting into communities. Like mentioned in a previous article: Economic Development for Black America (A series of articles – 1) 

One component that you may realize is very significant to this publication was the creation of the Tulsa Star, which was a Black-owned newspaper that regularly informed Africa Americans about their legal rights and any court rulings or legislation that was beneficial or harmful to their community.” 

Samuel Cornish and John Brown Russwurm started the first African-American periodical called Freedom’s Journal in 1827. The top three were Los Angeles Sentinel: This is the biggest and the oldest black newspaper in the Los Angeles area; Chicago Defender: This publication used to be the only daily black newspaper in the country; and, Washington Afro: This publication, also branded as the Baltimore Afro, is the biggest black newspaper in the Maryland area.

The Chicago Defender – according to Britannica, the most influential African American newspaper during the early and mid-20th century. The Defender, published in Chicago with a national editorial perspective, played a leading role in the widespread Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North. Founded in 1905 by Robert S. Abbott, the Chicago Defender originally was a four-page weekly newspaper. Like the white-owned Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers, the Defender under Abbott used sensationalism to boost circulation (side-eye, because yall know how I feel about sensationalized news, but I get it.)

For the full story behind this great publications read:

The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America; From the Age of the Pullman Porters to the Age of Obama


The value of Black Media with a local agenda

Much of the time with a local focus you can minimize the sensationalism. Of course local areas have their issues in politics and as we all know violence, but even if these issues are sensationalized they are relevant to a degree. Making news sensational means that a publication present information about (something) in a way that provokes public interest and excitement, at the expense of accuracy. Even if in journalism we “lede” with some sensationalism we should get to the facts. Its clearly an age-old tactic that works, but we’ve overworked it. In our local communities we are at a point where we cannot risk losing the facts or overlook details there is way too much at stake, in many areas across the country voting rights are in jeopardy. The people need to know how their jurisdictions are impacted by these laws, this is one example of the role black media serve in their communities.

What we could be doing

Evaluating how local newspapers are covering relevant issues that impact your community? Does one exists? Do you support them? Do you check in at least once a week to tune into what’s happening in your community? Be intentional about seeking them out and sharing the content? Find out about involvement of POC from the top, down. Are local businesses that you spend your money with investing in Ad space with the newspapers that serve your community – accountability has to happen there too.

Tune-out media that paint a negative picture – force them to follow what enhances your community. What you’re interested in drives the narrative.

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