Journalists of Color Declare Their Independence

My first clips as a “real” journalist were for my hometown paper, The Kansas City Star. I’d somehow finagled a spot in a high school workshop for aspiring minority journalists, and one of the perks was a chance to write for one of the local inserts that came out on Wednesdays. My assignment was sports, so I covered high school golf tournaments and track meets for $25 an article. It was an amazing opportunity, and when I went to the University of Missouri as a freshman, I was hired as a stringer to cover Missouri football and basketball. I filed daily updates from practice and wrote the game sidebar on weekends.

Sadly, I only lasted a semester at that job (it wasn’t easy being the only female reporter covering Mizzou sports, and I was still a teenager), but I’ll always be grateful to the Star and that high school workshop for giving me a shot.

It didn’t occur to me until much, much later the importance of minority recruitment into journalism. And I didn’t realize until I wrote a recent story for Washington Monthly just how little progress there has actually been to diversify media.

Research suggests that less than 8 percent of U.S. newsroom staff today are Black. Overall, U.S. newsrooms are only about half as diverse as the national workforce. And with the industry’s financial woes even before the pandemic, investment in minority recruitment and retainment – including workshops like the one I benefited from – are now an afterthought, if not an unaffordable luxury.

Journalists of color, however, feel acutely the need for a more equitable media – now more than over. But what they’re not doing is waiting for traditional outlets to regain an interest in minority recruitment. Rather, fed up with slow-moving efforts to make U.S. newsrooms more diverse, some journalists of color are striking out on their own.

The result is a new ecosystem of innovative news outlets, led for and by people of color, that I think could ultimately revolutionize traditional media.

I hope you’ll take a look at Washington Monthly.