Launch of a news collaboration for black communities

Evelyn Mateos | Editor and publisher

Ten black newspapers have joined forces to create Word In Black, a platform to “amplify the black experience by reporting, collecting and sharing stories about real people in communities across our country,” according to its website.

Word In Black consists of a newsletter and website (wordinblack.com) that publishes content from 10 participating newspapers including: New York Amsterdam News, The Atlanta Voice, Houston Defender Network, The Washington Informer , The Dallas Weekly, The Afro, Michigan Chronicle, The Seattle Medium, The Sacramento Observer, and St. Louis American. It also publishes original content.

The initiative is part of the Black Journalism Fund, founded last year by the Local Media Association (LMA) and the same 10 newspapers to support coverage and create solutions to issues affecting black communities.

LMA originally received funding from the Walton Family Foundation to do stories about COVID-19 and education. The idea was to create a national site to host the articles of the 10 newspapers on these issues. That site became Word In Black, which soft-launched in May and covers racial equity, K-12 education, police reform, health care disparities, social justice, politics, opinion, sports and LGBTQ.

Nick Charles, project manager for the Fund for Black Journalism and managing director of Word In Black, said the main aim of the initiative was to help these newspapers “survive and thrive”.

“There are still over 230 black-owned newspapers in this country – here we have 10 that still publish a hard copy every week – and what most of them need is a real smooth and efficient transition to digital products,” he said.

In addition to LMA and the Walton Family Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Google News Initiative and the Local Media Consortium also funded the project.

When E&P spoke to Charles, he couldn’t say much about what kind of reaction Word In Black still had. However, he said the newsletter had already received 1,200 subscribers. The goal is to build a subscriber base of 500,000 within the next two years.

Going forward, Charles said he and the 10 newspapers are looking for more funding and digital tools. He hopes this will help create a product that will engage audiences and make them want to contribute.

In today’s media industry, collaboration has become commonplace. Charles said that while it’s not always easy, it’s vital.

“[These] 10 different publishers sometimes have different mindsets, different policies, and they live in different parts of the country. So people in Texas don’t have the same ideas about a lot of things that people in New York may have,” he said. “But their affection and love for communities is what binds them together. The collaboration continues because people realize that to survive and fulfill our mission as journalists, we must come together.