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June 18, 2020

Local Fix: Recognizing Juneteenth Through Our Words and Actions


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 sharing a shortened edition in recognition of Juneteenth.

For millions of people across the U.S., Juneteenth has, for more than a century, been celebrated since the news of the emancipation of enslaved people finally reached Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. “In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the U.S. has always been delayed for [B]lack people,” P.R. Lockhart wrote for Vox in 2018 in a piece titled “Why celebrating Juneteenth is more important now than ever.” Celebrating Juneteenth is truly more important than ever, as the past few weeks have unleashed a much-needed national reflection and response to systemic racism from which the spirit of Juneteenth stems. And celebrating Juneteenth next year matters, too; and the next, and the next. Overhauling the biased structures of our democracy will take time. We’re here for the long haul, and we hope you are, too.

“We’re sick of diversity being a tack-on subject. If we are going to augment our coverage [with beats in communities of color] we need to look at the entire structure in which it exists,” S. Mitra Kalita, who launched the Black Twitter beat at the Los Angeles times five years ago, shared during the Knight Foundation’s Informed and Engaged talk this week. 

“We have been sustainers and facilitators of systemic racism,” Martin Reynolds of the Maynard Institute said during INN at Home, speaking of mainstream media, which is almost exclusively led by white people. “We have shaped the perception of Black men as dangerous…. We have ignored some communities entirely.”

While many media outlets are introducing Juneteenth as a holiday for staff for the first time this year, not everyone is able to do so. Here are some ways you can mark Juneteenth in your own (still virtual) newsroom:

  • Committing to capitalizing Black when describing people of the African diaspora, recognizing that the experience of Blackness is more than a color.
  • Re-evaluate the relationship with police departments, as S. Mitra Kalita also mentioned this week: “The conversation we need to be having is about police reporting [and the] use of phrases like ‘the authority said’.” This piece from Columbia Journalism Review unpacks the problems with that dynamic.
  • Map out your sphere of influence and recognize where you’re at as an individual and a newsroom, and where you want to be. Use the Maynard Institute’s framework from INN at Home as a guide.

How are you recognizing Juneteenth this year? Let us know by replying to this email.   

See you next week,
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.