When BlackVoices was first introduced by Arianna Huffington in 2011, the mission was to “spotlight the best and brightest Black thinkers, writers, and cultural game changers with the goal of making issues important to the Black community part of the national conversation.” But as writer and editor Lara Witt pointed out on Monday (July 30), there doesn’t seem to be many Black voices speaking on the platform as of late. In fact, the majority of the section’s first page bylines belong to white writers.
Times are hard in the newsroom space. Just ask the New York Daily News, which had half of its staff axed just last week. According to Tronc, the digital media company that copped the publication for a single dollar last September said it was revamping the paper to focus on “breaking news — especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility.” Last August, Mic let go of 20 staffers companywide to shift to a focus on video. And only three years ago, journalism companies were pronounced “dead” by Poynter amid a growing number of layoffs and disruption throughout the industry.
But what does that say about staffing a Black section of an acclaimed news outlet with the voices it intends to uplift? This is especially important to think about in a time when news media aimed at Black and Hispanic audiences have seen recent declines in their followings. As the Pew Research Center notes, Black-oriented newspapers are a long-standing minority news sector in the U.S., and though the Black press trade association (National Newspaper Publishers Association) currently lists close to 170 members on its website, “few of these papers have regularly audited circulation figures, making it difficult to acquire audience figures for the sector as a whole.”
We should clarify that this isn’t a means to discredit the strides that HuffPost and BlackVoices have made as a whole. On Sunday (July 29), Senior Culture Writer Zeba Blay published a moving piece about the murder of Nia Wilson and the anxiety of being a Black woman. And just hours before Witt shared her eye-opening observations, writer Yashar Ali published an article about Beyoncé hiring the first Black photographer to shoot a cover in Vogue‘s 126-year history. But even the latter comes with its own dose of irony.
All this to say that we’d love to see HuffPost—which has only flourished under the leadership of Editor in Chief Lydia Polgreen—address this in a way that truly serves the Black community as it intended to upon its 2011 launch. In the meantime, I want all Black writers to pitch the hell out of them if they haven’t already. And maybe send Witt’s tweet to @WritersOfColor while you’re at it.
In Other Media News:
- Rihanna’s on the September cover of British Vogue.
- Pitchfork has a new section devoted to hip-hop music and culture.
- Jarrod Ramos has pleaded not guilty in the Capital Gazette shooting.
Media Studies is CASSIUS’ weekly look at news, moves, and mess-ups in the wild world we call “The Industry.” Got a tip? Email Stephanie Long: slong(at)ionedigital(dot)com.