Black Journalists Work to Improve Coverage of African American Communities

Photos by Deanna Johns

Deanna Johns Data News Weekly Contributor

Since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, media outlets across the United States have been taking steps toward diversifying their staff and introducing mandatory diversity training as a necessary step in equipping journalists to better report on issues within minority communities. However, some experts say they still have a long way to go.

According to a 2022 study by the Pew Research Center in 2022, of 12,000 journalists surveyed, 52-percent say that their companies do not make ethnic and racial diversity a priority and that most U.S. newsrooms are dominated by White reporters and journalists.

“The work that Black journalists do is paramount. It is very important to tell our stories from our perspective,” said DJ Johnson, the founder and owner of Baldwin & Co., a Black-owned independent bookstore that opened in 2021 in the Marigny.

Johnson joined members of the New Orleans Alliance of Black Journalists to discuss the importance of Black voices in the media at the organization’s September meeting at the Nola Art Bar. Johnson has partnered with Charisse Gibson, the Evening News Anchor for WWL-TV Channel 4, to support the success of Black media professionals in the city. These gatherings allow local Black journalists to come together to build connections and work toward improving the negative narrative surrounding African American communities, Gibson shared in her remarks.

In 2020, conservative news outlets were more likely to use language about “looting” and “rioting” to describe the Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s Death, according to a study by Signal AI. They were also less likely to mention racism and police brutality when discussing the motive and cause of Floyds’ death, the study found. News outlets also faced significant challenges when reporting on the BLM protests that took the world by storm, according to the study.

“Journalists from diverse backgrounds lead to better journalism. Media has centered White, wealthy interests, while excluding and actively harming Black, Latino, Indigenous, immigrant, LGBTQ+ and other oppressed communities,” said Jennifer Larino, the Executive Director at Lede New Orleans, a non-profit news initiative.

Lede supports training for Black, Brown, Latinx, Asian, and LGBTQ+ young adults to tell the stories of marginalized communities in and around New Orleans. Larino said the non-profit works to streamline New Orleans youth and existing media professionals into spaces that equip them to be leading storytellers within the community.

“We must build journalism spaces where the thoughts and perspectives of all individuals are valued and matters,” Larino said.

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