A project of Democracy Fund

June 5, 2020

Local Fix: We Stand With You

Welcome to the Local Fix. Each week we look at key debates in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. This week, we’re breaking form and sharing a reflection.​

As we write, in communities across the US people are attending memorials, protests, and rallies demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other Black people who have been victims of police violence and a culture of white supremacy that has enabled it. We know many of you and people in your newsrooms have faced violence while trying to cover these protests, and we will write more about those issues in the future. Today, we want to focus on one thing: Black journalists matter. Black lives matter.

Thursday, journalists of color called in “sick and tired” to The Philadelphia Inquirer after the paper ran a racist headline and didn’t offer clear public steps on how they would do better. Thursday, Black journalists at The New York Times risked their jobs by protesting an op-ed that endangered Black lives, and Friday hundreds of non-editorial staff called out sick in solidarity. Friday, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh shared that Alexis Johnson, a Black reporter, was banned by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from covering George Floyd protests because of a joke about the aftermath of a Kenny Chesney concert. These examples represent a small fraction of the hostility Black journalists endure inside of newsrooms all the time, even while they do the work inside their newsroom to push for equity, even while they risk their lives outside the newsroom to cover communities, even while they grapple with their own grief, trauma, and stress. 

In solidarity with these journalists and so many others who have shared their stories this week we are turning over this newsletter to them. They say it better than we ever could, so today we are sharing just a small selection of those essays, articles, and notes from Black journalists across the country. There are many more, and we’ll share over @thelocalnewslab over the next week.

Thank you to all below and to more for sharing. We know it is important to highlight these voices now, to listen to them and to ensure that these stories are met with action, in our newsrooms and our industry, and our own organization, in the days, months and years to come. We know we can always do more, and commit to that now. 

“We labor on because we have a cause bigger than ourselves. But it doesn’t mean we don’t turn to friends, family, colleagues and therapy to get through this, because we do. I ask for those consuming this news site and many, many other black journalists’ work understand that we are reporting while dealing with our own life-long post-traumatic stress from repeatedly bearing witness to our dehumanization and murder.

The pain is real. It lingers. And what we witness today will shape us for the rest of our lives.”

Black Journalists and Covering the Storm That Never Passes —  Danielle C. Belton, The Root

“But at the end of the day, I think we all go home and weep, and pray, and hope, and deal with the anger and disappointment. The attack on press freedom is disheartening on its own — but imagine the terror of wearing both a press badge and black skin in this country at the same time,” Dorothy Tucker, an investigative reporter for Chicago’s CBS-2 and president of the National Association of Black Journalists. 

‘The terror of wearing both a press badge and black skin’: Black journalists are carrying unique burdens  — The Washington Post 

“The Amsterdam News has been around for 111 years, and we have covered NY and the country since then…The black press has been the drumbeat of Black America. It is interesting to see how while the Black press will begin the stories, then the mainstream press will begin to run with them and get them wrong in so many places,” Elinor Tatum, New York Amsterdam News

Black Media Speaks: How We Are Covering the Uprisings Against Police Brutality  —  Center for Community Media 

“As I edited these essays, I cycled through all of the stages of grief. I laughed and cried, felt hopeless and despondent, dug in on my commitment to making Chicago a better city, and fantasized about moving into a custom tricked-out van down by some distant river. We’ve arranged these essays to reflect this emotional journey, and I hope you read this package from start to finish, from Derrick’s palpable anger and delete-button self-care to Terrence’s Buddhist chants as a way to channel the rage we all feel,” Karen Hawkins, Chicago Reader.

Essays as group therapy: How are Black writers coping? We’re chanting, fact-checking history, and envisioning a tiny future. — Derrick Clifton, Terrence F. Chappell, Karen Hawkins, Princess McDowell, and Evan F. Moore, Chicago Reader

“…Discounting these lived experiences has real ramifications. One of the things that’s so exhausting for Black journalists is this constant feeling of “Yes, and I told you so.” It is so frustrating when someone you had a conversation with four years ago—or six months ago or last week or just 24 hours ago—comes to you later and says, “I had no idea. I had no idea things were this bad.” Because all that tells me is it didn’t matter when I said it. It only mattered when you finally found a reference point that you were willing to accept as valid,” Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Texas Tribune.”

8 Journalists on Reporting While Black, With the Weight of History on Their Shoulders — Glamour 

“In addition to a deconstruction of American democracy, we’re seeing a deconstruction of the concept of journalistic objectivity. And it’s about time. It does not mean that there’s not fair journalism but when what is good to cover is good for a certain demographic, then we have a lot of chaos in the information ecosystem,”  Farai Chideya, Ford Foundation.

The Toll of Covering Police Brutality as a Black Journalist— WNYC’s The Takeaway 

“Like so many in our community, this week has made me feel weary, agitated, fearful, angry and invigorated — all at the same time. One emotion I have not felt is helpless. As many of our callers have said this week, this is a time when Black owned media matters. Having a place dedicated specifically and exclusively to giving voice to our pain, struggle and frustration matters. Having a space where we can grapple with the range of emotions we are feeling — pride and support for the activism in the streets, and anger over the destruction in our neighborhoods. This matters. Being able to hold “the powers that be” accountable to our community, matters.”

The Uprising: A Message from WURD President/CEO— Sara Lomax-Reese

“My voice is the voice of facts and context. My voice is the hope that they can bring the understanding and, eventually, the equality that my country’s founding documents promise.

My space is the newsroom.

I’m good here.”

AMERICAN DIARY: To be black and a journalist at this moment — Amanda Barrett, Associated Press

 Stay safe,

Josh, Teresa, Christine, and Dani
@jcstearns, @gteresa, @newsbyschmidt, @danirosales27

The Local Fix is a project of the Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square. Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund, you can find a full list of the organizations we support on our website.