More journalists of color become newsroom founders

“They’ll be emboldened to start from scratch and build the kind of media ecosystem they want to see.”

In 2021, we’ll see more journalists of color go from being newsroom employees to newsroom founders. That might seem like an unrealistic future to some — but if you look closely at what’s happened across the industry this year, it doesn’t feel too far off.

This summer, as newsrooms deployed reporters to cover protests for racial justice, many were forced to reckon with the inequities within their own houses. Scores of Black and brown journalists took to Twitter to call out former employers, editors, and executives for mistreatment, intimidation, and the outright racism that’s persisted for years in some of America’s most important newsrooms. The nation was engaging in what seemed like a nonstop dialogue about inequality, and the people documenting that discourse had the attention of massive audiences on social media to make their voices and grievances heard. It was the perfect storm to demand change.

What followed was a wave of action that even some of the most seasoned journalists had never seen. Top editors and executives at local and national publications stepped down. Companies put out statements addressing toxic work cultures brought to light by mistreated journalists. All of these things were necessary and should have happened a long time ago. It’s a shame that it took protests around police killings for newsroom executives to take action.

But what comes next?

Next year, more journalists of color will harness the power of their experience, audience, and knowledge to launch their own newsrooms. They’ll be emboldened to start from scratch and build the kind of media ecosystem they want to see. One where people are treated fairly and the stories and experiences of journalists from different backgrounds are celebrated and amplified, not suppressed.

Journalists in most newsrooms see the problems in the coverage of their communities, but many haven’t envisioned themselves as founders who could build something to solve those issues. And why would they? Even if you have a great idea, the same issues around raising capital that hinder Black tech founders arise in conversations around media funding, too. This year, the philanthropic community has also had to face its own tough questions around whether or not organizations led by minorities get the financial support they need. In 2021, more journalists of color will have the opportunity — and funding — to bring their ideas to life and fill information needs that have been ignored for far too long.

It’s not just wishful thinking. This year, we’ve already seen editorial leaders of color leave their newsrooms to start their own organizations. The rise of nonprofit newsrooms and the willingness we’ve seen from some foundations to fund journalism is a recipe for a new media renaissance, led by journalists. We’ll also see those who’ve already taken the leap into entrepreneurship receive more of the funding and support they need and so richly deserve. Founders have in some cases had to work without a salary in order to give their communities the information they so desperately need. It’s high time that we give them their flowers – and our dollars.

In her book Ghosting The News, Margaret Sullivan notes that between 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print outlets in the U.S. disappeared, creating news deserts in some communities across the country. This problem, which can seem insurmountable some days, actually presents opportunities for journalists of color to go into communities, raise funds from foundations, and launch nonprofit newsrooms to fill these gaps. We’ve seen white journalists do it, and it’s time for funders to keep the same energy they had around racial equality in 2020 and help turn journalists of color into entrepreneurs.

Do foundations, companies, and individuals with gobs of money care about the information needs of people of color in communities across the country, and about bringing their stories to light? Or were their words all just a show to let people know they’re “actively engaged” in “conversations” around race and equality? Statements are cool, but putting action — and money — behind your words would go much further.

Beat reporters will become bosses, editors will become founders, and the media landscape as we know it will shift to give these great minds more agency to chart their own path forward and take others with them. The opportunity is there, the money is there, and most importantly, the need is there. Communities across the country are hungry for information, and there’s a new wave of media leaders ready to give it to them.

John Ketchum is an associate on the strategy and startups team at the American Journalism Project.

In 2021, we’ll see more journalists of color go from being newsroom employees to newsroom founders. That might seem like an unrealistic future to some — but if you look closely at what’s happened across the industry this year, it doesn’t feel too far off.

This summer, as newsrooms deployed reporters to cover protests for racial justice, many were forced to reckon with the inequities within their own houses. Scores of Black and brown journalists took to Twitter to call out former employers, editors, and executives for mistreatment, intimidation, and the outright racism that’s persisted for years in some of America’s most important newsrooms. The nation was engaging in what seemed like a nonstop dialogue about inequality, and the people documenting that discourse had the attention of massive audiences on social media to make their voices and grievances heard. It was the perfect storm to demand change.

What followed was a wave of action that even some of the most seasoned journalists had never seen. Top editors and executives at local and national publications stepped down. Companies put out statements addressing toxic work cultures brought to light by mistreated journalists. All of these things were necessary and should have happened a long time ago. It’s a shame that it took protests around police killings for newsroom executives to take action.

But what comes next?

Next year, more journalists of color will harness the power of their experience, audience, and knowledge to launch their own newsrooms. They’ll be emboldened to start from scratch and build the kind of media ecosystem they want to see. One where people are treated fairly and the stories and experiences of journalists from different backgrounds are celebrated and amplified, not suppressed.

Journalists in most newsrooms see the problems in the coverage of their communities, but many haven’t envisioned themselves as founders who could build something to solve those issues. And why would they? Even if you have a great idea, the same issues around raising capital that hinder Black tech founders arise in conversations around media funding, too. This year, the philanthropic community has also had to face its own tough questions around whether or not organizations led by minorities get the financial support they need. In 2021, more journalists of color will have the opportunity — and funding — to bring their ideas to life and fill information needs that have been ignored for far too long.

It’s not just wishful thinking. This year, we’ve already seen editorial leaders of color leave their newsrooms to start their own organizations. The rise of nonprofit newsrooms and the willingness we’ve seen from some foundations to fund journalism is a recipe for a new media renaissance, led by journalists. We’ll also see those who’ve already taken the leap into entrepreneurship receive more of the funding and support they need and so richly deserve. Founders have in some cases had to work without a salary in order to give their communities the information they so desperately need. It’s high time that we give them their flowers – and our dollars.

In her book Ghosting The News, Margaret Sullivan notes that between 2004 to 2015, 1,800 print outlets in the U.S. disappeared, creating news deserts in some communities across the country. This problem, which can seem insurmountable some days, actually presents opportunities for journalists of color to go into communities, raise funds from foundations, and launch nonprofit newsrooms to fill these gaps. We’ve seen white journalists do it, and it’s time for funders to keep the same energy they had around racial equality in 2020 and help turn journalists of color into entrepreneurs.

Do foundations, companies, and individuals with gobs of money care about the information needs of people of color in communities across the country, and about bringing their stories to light? Or were their words all just a show to let people know they’re “actively engaged” in “conversations” around race and equality? Statements are cool, but putting action — and money — behind your words would go much further.

Beat reporters will become bosses, editors will become founders, and the media landscape as we know it will shift to give these great minds more agency to chart their own path forward and take others with them. The opportunity is there, the money is there, and most importantly, the need is there. Communities across the country are hungry for information, and there’s a new wave of media leaders ready to give it to them.

John Ketchum is an associate on the strategy and startups team at the American Journalism Project.

Matt Skibinski   Misinformation won’t stop unless we stop it

Kerri Hoffman   Protecting podcasting’s open ecosystem

Masuma Ahuja   We’ll remember how interconnected our world is

Sarah Marshall   The year audiences need extra cheer

John Saroff   Covid sparks the growth of independent local news sites

Sumi Aggarwal   News literacy programs aren’t child’s play

Marissa Evans   Putting community trauma into context

Edward Roussel   Tech companies get aggressive in local

Nabiha Syed   Newsrooms quit their toxic relationships

Zizi Papacharissi   The year we rebuild the infrastructure of truth

John Davidow   Reflect and repent

Rishad Patel   From direct-to-consumer to direct-to-believers

Chicas Poderosas   More voices mean better information

Ben Collins   We need to learn how to talk to (and about) accidental conspiracists

Sue Cross   A global consensus around the kind of news we need to save

Bill Adair   The future of fact-checking is all about structured data

Brandy Zadrozny   Misinformation fatigue sets in

Bo Hee Kim   Newsrooms create an intentional and collaborative culture

Joshua P. Darr   Legislatures will tackle the local news crisis

Logan Jaffe   History as a reporting tool

Errin Haines   Let’s normalize women’s leadership

Jesse Holcomb   Genre erosion in nonprofit journalism

Matt DeRienzo   Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

Jim Friedlich   A newspaper renaissance reached by stopping the presses

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting dodged a bullet in 2020, but 2021 will be harder

Ray Soto   The news gets spatial

Astead W. Herndon   The Trump-sized window of the media caring about race closes again

Charo Henríquez   A new path to leadership

Mariano Blejman   It’s time to challenge autocompleted journalism

Mark Stenberg   The rise of the journalist-influencer

John Ketchum   More journalists of color become newsroom founders

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists will be kinder to each other — and to themselves

Hossein Derakhshan   Mass personalization of truth

José Zamora   Walking the talk on diversity

Aaron Foley   Diversity gains haven’t shown up in local news

Anna Nirmala   Local news orgs grasp the urgency of community roots

Mike Ananny   Toward better tech journalism

Michael W. Wagner   Fractured democracy, fractured journalism

Gabe Schneider   Another year of empty promises on diversity

Danielle C. Belton   A decimated media rededicates itself to truth

Loretta Chao   Open up the profession

Kevin D. Grant   Parachute journalism goes away for good

Parker Molloy   The press will risk elevating a Shadow President Trump

Basile Simon   Graphics, unite

Patrick Butler   Covid-19 reporting has prepared us for cross-border collaboration

Nicholas Jackson   Blogging is back, but better

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, a push for pluralism

Burt Herman   Journalists build post-Facebook digital communities

Nico Gendron   Ask your readers to help build your products

Gonzalo del Peon   Collaborations expand from newsrooms to the business side

Ernie Smith   Entrepreneurship on rails

Nonny de la Pena   News reaches the third dimension

John Garrett   A surprisingly good year

Catalina Albeanu   Publish less, listen more

Jennifer Brandel   A sneak peak at power mapping, 2073’s top innovation

Jer Thorp   Fewer pixels, more cardboard

Gordon Crovitz   Common law will finally apply to the Internet

Chase Davis   The year we look beyond The Story

Steve Henn   Has independent podcasting peaked?

Marcus Mabry   News orgs adapt to a post-Trump world (with Trump still in it)

Hadjar Benmiloud   Get representative, or die trying

Garance Franke-Ruta   Rebundling content, rebuilding connections

Don Day   Business first, journalism second

Ariane Bernard   Going solo is still only a path for the few

Samantha Ragland   The year of journalists taking initiative

Victor Pickard   The commercial era for local journalism is over

Kawandeep Virdee   Goodbye, doomscroll

Meredith D. Clark   The year journalism starts paying reparations

Rick Berke   Virtual events are here to stay

Cindy Royal   J-school grads maintain their optimism and adaptability

Christoph Mergerson   Black Americans will demand more from journalism

Raney Aronson-Rath   To get past information divides, we need to understand them first

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes   A shift from conversation to action

Marie Shanahan   Journalism schools stop perpetuating the status quo

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   Stop pretending publishers are a united front

Pia Frey   Building growth through tastemakers and their communities

Andrew Ramsammy   Stop being polite and start getting real

Mark S. Luckie   Newsrooms and streaming services get cozy

Natalie Meade   Journalism enters rehab

A.J. Bauer   The year of MAGAcal thinking

M. Scott Havens   Traditional pay TV will embrace the disruption

Pablo Boczkowski   Audiences have revolted. Will newsrooms adapt?

Joanne McNeil   Newsrooms push back against Ivy League cronyism

Shaydanay Urbani and Nancy Watzman   Local collaboration is key to slowing misinformation

Brian Moritz   The year sports journalism changes for good

Jonas Kaiser   Toward a wehrhafte journalism

Joni Deutsch   Local arts and music make journalism more joyous

Francesca Tripodi   Don’t expect breaking up Google and Facebook to solve our information woes

Ashton Lattimore   Remote work helps level the playing field in an insular industry

Tonya Mosley   True equity means ownership

Renée Kaplan   Falling in love with your subscription

Ariel Zirulnick   Local newsrooms question their paywalls

Imaeyen Ibanga   Journalism gets unmasked

Rachel Schallom   The rise of nonprofit journalism continues

Beena Raghavendran   Journalism gets fused with art

Alfred Hermida and Oscar Westlund   The virus ups data journalism’s game

Alicia Bell and Simon Galperin   Media reparations now

Celeste Headlee   The rise of radical newsroom transparency

Annie Rudd   Newsrooms grow less comfortable with the “view from above”

Sara M. Watson   Return of the RSS reader

Sonali Prasad   Making disaster journalism that cuts through the noise

Laura E. Davis   The focus turns to newsroom leaders for lasting change

An Xiao Mina   2020 isn’t a black swan — it’s a yellow canary

Alyssa Zeisler   Holistic medicine for journalism

Sam Ford   We’ll find better ways to archive our work

Jody Brannon   People won’t renew

Sarah Stonbely   Videoconferencing brings more geographic diversity

Tim Carmody   Spotify will make big waves in video

Megan McCarthy   Readers embrace a low-information diet

Heidi Tworek   A year of news mocktails

Nikki Usher   Don’t expect an antitrust dividend for the media

Tamar Charney   Public radio has a midlife crisis

Janet Haven and Sam Hinds   Is this an AI newsroom?

C.W. Anderson   Journalism changed under Trump — will it keep changing under Biden?

David Skok   A pandemic-prompted wave of consolidation

Colleen Shalby   The definition of good journalism shifts

Tanya Cordrey   Declining trust forces publishers to claim (or disclaim) values

Robert Hernandez   Data and shame

Richard Tofel   Less on politics, more on how government works (or doesn’t)

Cherian George   Enter the lamb warriors

Mike Caulfield   2021’s misinformation will look a lot like 2020’s (and 2019’s, and…)

Taylor Lorenz   Journalists will learn influencing isn’t easy

María Sánchez Díez   Traffic will plummet — and it’ll be ok

Francesco Zaffarano   The year we ask the audience what it needs

Rodney Gibbs   Zooming beyond talking heads

Cory Haik   Be essential

Linda Solomon Wood   Canada steps up for journalism

Jennifer Choi   What have we done for you lately?

Ben Werdmuller   The web blooms again

Tshepo Tshabalala   Go niche

Kristen Muller   Engaged journalism scales

Talmon Joseph Smith   The media rejects deficit hawkery

Ryan Kellett   The bundle gets bundled

Tauhid Chappell and Mike Rispoli   Defund the crime beat

J. Siguru Wahutu   Journalists still wrongly think the U.S. is different

Doris Truong   Indigenous issues get long-overdue mainstream coverage

Juleyka Lantigua   The download, podcasting’s metric king, gets dethroned

Whitney Phillips   Facts are an insufficient response to falsehoods

Cory Bergman   The year after a thousand earthquakes

Delia Cai   Subscriptions start working for the middle

Mandy Jenkins   You build trust by helping your readers

Candis Callison   Calling it a crisis isn’t enough (if it ever was)

Benjamin Toff   Beltway reporting gets normal again, for better and for worse

Julia B. Chan and Kim Bui   Millennials are ready to run things

Nisha Chittal   The year we stop pivoting

Julia Angwin   Show your (computational) work

David Chavern   Local video finally gets momentum

Jessica Clark   News becomes plural

Jacqué Palmer   The rise of the plain-text email newsletter

Amara Aguilar   Journalism schools emphasize listening

Stefanie Murray and Anthony Advincula   Expect to see more translations and non-English content

Anthony Nadler   Journalism struggles to find a new model of legitimacy

Ståle Grut   Network analysis enters the journalism toolbox

Jeremy Gilbert   Human-centered journalism

Kate Myers   My son will join every Zoom call in our industry

Andrew Donohue   The rise of the democracy beat

Zainab Khan   From understanding to feeling