News

The alarming demise of black media organizations

Posted July 16

With the sale of black culture magazines Ebony and Jet in a news industry that continues to struggle financially, many are speculating that to lose black-owned media outlets is especially costly at a time when race relations are increasingly newsworthy.

"As racial issues have once again become a prominent topic in the national conversation, the influence of black-owned media companies on black culture is diminishing," the New York Times reported.

Once the lone platforms for black voices in a majority white media landscape, magazines like Ebony and Jet are now forerunners to additional platforms minorities can use to speak up about issues that matter, as the Times pointed out.

"Time Inc. now owns the magazine Essence and Viacom owns Black Entertainment Television. The Oprah Winfrey Network ... has been around since 2011," The Times reported. "The Undefeated, ESPN’s site covering the intersection of race and sports, debuted in May. The emergence of Black Twitter has also given African-Americans a powerful voice on social media."

Yet having more options to be heard doesn't solve another problem that outlets like Ebony and Jet alleviated, if only a little — the lack of minority employees in the news and media businesses.

In its most recent State of the Media report, Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of black journalists in American newsrooms has plateaued since 2009, accounting for just below 5 percent of all journalism jobs.

A lack of diversity within media companies can lead to a lack of coverage within minority communities, something the media industry has been struggling with since the Civil Rights Era. As the media continues to try to cover minority issues and racial tensions, the loss of black-owned media outlets is perhaps one neither the industry nor American society can afford. Other black-owned outlets like NewsOne Now hopes it will be a call to action for more African-Americans to get involved in the media.

"We must dissect the conversation. Our job is to call out mainstream media," black media outlet NewsOne Now host and managing editor Roland S. Martin told the San Diego Free Press this year. "It is our job to hold people accountable and to speak the truth.”

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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