Local Independent Online Publishers Take On Inclusion Of Minorities In Chicago

On the second day of the Local Independent Online News Publisher’s Summit on Oct. 2 in Chicago, just under 10 of the 60 attendees sat in on the small-group discussion about writing about minorities and underserved communities.

Tracie Powell, a discussion facilitator, was the only person of color in the room sparsely filled with white women and white men. The majority of the conference attendees were participating in a small-group discussion on revenues. Powell, the publisher of AllDigitocracy.com, acknowledged the importance of making money in maintaining a publication. But she also urged awareness for the power of local independent publishers to serve the impoverished, people of color and the underserved.

“As a founder, I understand the challenges acutely. You’re working by yourself, and you don’t have the money, or the resources, or the time, quite frankly, to go out and try and find or mentor folks to come on to expand your coverage. I’m here to tell you today that it is imperative that you do this,” Powell said.

Powell emphasized the potential of local online publishers to serve communities that are not typically important to the business model of traditional media.

“The mainstream media outlets in your communities aren’t (covering underserved communities). There’s an opportunity for you to do what they’re not doing,” Powell said.

Suzanne McBride was paired with Powell to moderate the discussion. McBride was the founder of the hyperlocal website AustinTalks.com and a board member of LION Publishers as well as interim chair of Columbia College of Chicago, the institution that hosted the event.

As an academic, McBride said she was interested in how communities of color across the country are covered by metropolitan-area media with undertones of racism or segregation.

As a publisher, McBride said she knew she was limited in how she could combat that coverage.

“As a founder, I understand the challenges acutely. You’re working by yourself, and you don’t have the money, or the resources, or the time, quite frankly, to go out and try and find or mentor folks to come on to expand your coverage.”

“As a journalist, you want to think, ‘oh I can go in and tell that story.’ No, you can’t,” McBride said, referring to the different life histories people with privilege have. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. I’m saying what’s more important is opening the window for all people to tell stories.”

That’s what Charlotte-Anne Lucas, managing director of NowCastSA.com, a San Antonio, Texas-focused website, did when covering the Black Lives Matter movement in San Antonio.

Lucas felt it would be inappropriate for her to report on the Black Lives Matter protest through her lens as a white woman.

“It would be much better to help and empower the community to cover it themselves,” she said.

Lucas used Storify, a tool that can display social media posts as chronological stories, to report the event.

“Through that process, I got just an incredible multidimensional picture of what happened that it was far better than any of (our competitors),” Lucas said.

Lucas referred to her ability to curate her community’s content as a way for her to keep her lens as a white woman out of the coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests.

The examples of strategies and tools used by publishers to be inclusive still missed something, according to Powell.

“You can still miss the nuance. You can still use language that isolates rather than engages,” she said.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Simon Galperin’s story.