BY MADISON WILLIAMS
The Dallas Examiner
Paired with The Dallas Examiner as a summer intern through the Discover the Unexpected program, I elevated my writing skills by reporting on things happening in the Dallas community. Without the experience, I wouldn’t have a clue about the initiatives to assist those affected by domestic violence in Dallas, how Dr. Sorrell at Paul Quin College is implementing new programs for low-income students or the importance of Black blood donors to combat the sickle cell crisis.
My 10 weeks at The Dallas Examiner has opened my eyes to the role of the Black Press and community-based news. The rich history behind Black newspapers exemplifies the need for citizens to continue supporting Black newspapers in order to keep them afloat.
Beginning in 1827, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish started the Freedom’s Journal in New York, and by the start of the civil war, 40 Black newspapers were up and running.
Since its inception, the Black Press has worked under the motto, “We wish to plead our cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”
Major news platforms have often ignored the stories of Black America, and if we happened to be included, it was often a demeaning narrative associated with crime. In mainstream media, we were always monsterized and made out to be poor, helpless and welfare-dependent. There was never news of what actually happened in our communities regarding marriages, strides in civil rights or contributions to academia. The erasure of the Black experience left our newspapers as one of few valuable resources available for Black news consumption.
In the 1960s, mainstream media outlets began hiring Black people on staff, bringing the Black audience along with them. Since then, but even more recently, the Black Press has seen a significant decline in readership and funding. Several publications have been forced to close completely or reestablish themselves as strictly online or electronic news publications.
Black media platforms are incredibly vital to our history; we must continue supporting them and pass down the importance of community-based journalism to future generations.
Often, we only see what’s featured on national news, the “watered down” and more sensationalized stories that generate the most views and likes. This style of rushed journalism fails to highlight the key messaging of stories that take place right here in our own backyards. Black men, women and children across the country should consume news from Black news media platforms.
The importance of the Black readership goes beyond the need for diversity in journalism. We need African Americans consuming media directly from Black publishers. Black papers are barely hanging on to their businesses, and there isn’t enough money to pay salaries for large editorial teams.
As a community, we need to be more responsible consumers and support the companies that advertise in Black newspapers. Advertisement is the primary source of income for the newspapers, and without it, they can’t continue pushing out news for our readership.
I have always been an avid reader of the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, which are great news organizations. Still, they aren’t telling the important stories that happen in South Dallas and other Black communities.
I hope, as a young and aspiring journalist, that corporations realize the need for advertisement in Black newspapers and the need for an increase in community readership. Otherwise, people may not understand the importance of these publications until they’re all gone.
Madison Williams is an intern at The Dallas Examiner and a student at Hampton University.