True equity means ownership

“Your intellectual property is like your child. Think hard about who gets to hold her, keep her, make money off of her.”

It almost feels too simple, right?

For far too long, newsroom leaders have been wringing their hands over how to serve Black and brown communities. How many diversity initiatives, recruitment efforts, and implicit-bias trainings do we have to endure without the follow-through?

The spring and summer of 2020 ripped the blinders off of newsroom leaders who were ignorant to how systemic racism works and what oppression looks like.

In newsrooms, that oppression looks like the marginalization of Black and brown staff, the stifling of ideas, the crafting of narratives about POC that center White audiences, and the canceling of shows. Audiences of color aren’t blind to these decisions. In 2019, before the launch of Truth Be Told, my advice podcast for people of color produced by KQED, I held in-person community gatherings and asked potential listeners what they wanted from a show like it.

At every one of those gatherings, audience members asked some variation of: “How committed is this organization to a show that speaks to us?” “How long will this last?” “How do we know this won’t be just another program we’ll fall in love with and then, like so many others before, gets canceled?”

Like most journalists of color, I couldn’t promise them that wouldn’t happen.

In Hollywood storylines, it’s the characters of color that are always the first to die. In journalism, it’s the canceling of your favorite show with a Latina host. It’s wondering why you never see the biggest newspaper in your town covering your neighborhood. It’s listening to stories about you that aren’t for you.

What’s different now is that we can’t unlearn the lessons of this summer’s uprisings. It’s not good enough to hire staff of color without making changes that will make your news organization look, sound, and feel different — a truer reflection of America.

So in 2021, true equity means ownership.

More Black, brown, and Indigenous journalists will team up to start their own media companies. Podcasters, writers, and other creatives are also learning more about the value of their intellectual property and having full control over the journalism they create and produce.

We’ve seen this happen already. In the summer of 2020, podcast host and producer Misha Euceph bought full ownership of her podcast centering Muslim voices called Tell Them, I Am from Los Angeles public radio station KPCC. Euceph has since started her own production company.

“Your intellectual property is like your child,” Euceph wrote on Twitter. “Think hard about who gets to hold her, keep her, make money off of her.”

Journalists Akoto Ofori-Atta and Lauren Williams‘ venture is another example. In 2021, the two veteran journalists will launch Capital B, a Black-led nonprofit local and national news organization.

These won’t be easy ventures. The media landscape is flooded with choices for the consumer. But in these newly formed “for us, by us” media organizations, the audience will begin to see themselves reflected in the product, and perhaps we’ll see a growth in support under the membership model, choosing to support POC-led organizations with regular small donations.

Philanthropic organizations and private funders in 2021 may also turn their attention to these POC-led startups, and find interest in backing media that is closer to the ground in serving communities of color.

And I predict that toward the end of 2021, we will see many full-circle moments: some media legacy organizations, understanding the value of POC journalists, partnering with POC-led startups and finally getting closer to fulfilling the mission of journalism: truer, more inclusive coverage that reflects our world.

Tonya Mosley is co-host of NPR’s Here & Now and host of Truth Be Told.

It almost feels too simple, right?

For far too long, newsroom leaders have been wringing their hands over how to serve Black and brown communities. How many diversity initiatives, recruitment efforts, and implicit-bias trainings do we have to endure without the follow-through?

The spring and summer of 2020 ripped the blinders off of newsroom leaders who were ignorant to how systemic racism works and what oppression looks like.

In newsrooms, that oppression looks like the marginalization of Black and brown staff, the stifling of ideas, the crafting of narratives about POC that center White audiences, and the canceling of shows. Audiences of color aren’t blind to these decisions. In 2019, before the launch of Truth Be Told, my advice podcast for people of color produced by KQED, I held in-person community gatherings and asked potential listeners what they wanted from a show like it.

At every one of those gatherings, audience members asked some variation of: “How committed is this organization to a show that speaks to us?” “How long will this last?” “How do we know this won’t be just another program we’ll fall in love with and then, like so many others before, gets canceled?”

Like most journalists of color, I couldn’t promise them that wouldn’t happen.

In Hollywood storylines, it’s the characters of color that are always the first to die. In journalism, it’s the canceling of your favorite show with a Latina host. It’s wondering why you never see the biggest newspaper in your town covering your neighborhood. It’s listening to stories about you that aren’t for you.

What’s different now is that we can’t unlearn the lessons of this summer’s uprisings. It’s not good enough to hire staff of color without making changes that will make your news organization look, sound, and feel different — a truer reflection of America.

So in 2021, true equity means ownership.

More Black, brown, and Indigenous journalists will team up to start their own media companies. Podcasters, writers, and other creatives are also learning more about the value of their intellectual property and having full control over the journalism they create and produce.

We’ve seen this happen already. In the summer of 2020, podcast host and producer Misha Euceph bought full ownership of her podcast centering Muslim voices called Tell Them, I Am from Los Angeles public radio station KPCC. Euceph has since started her own production company.

“Your intellectual property is like your child,” Euceph wrote on Twitter. “Think hard about who gets to hold her, keep her, make money off of her.”

Journalists Akoto Ofori-Atta and Lauren Williams‘ venture is another example. In 2021, the two veteran journalists will launch Capital B, a Black-led nonprofit local and national news organization.

These won’t be easy ventures. The media landscape is flooded with choices for the consumer. But in these newly formed “for us, by us” media organizations, the audience will begin to see themselves reflected in the product, and perhaps we’ll see a growth in support under the membership model, choosing to support POC-led organizations with regular small donations.

Philanthropic organizations and private funders in 2021 may also turn their attention to these POC-led startups, and find interest in backing media that is closer to the ground in serving communities of color.

And I predict that toward the end of 2021, we will see many full-circle moments: some media legacy organizations, understanding the value of POC journalists, partnering with POC-led startups and finally getting closer to fulfilling the mission of journalism: truer, more inclusive coverage that reflects our world.

Tonya Mosley is co-host of NPR’s Here & Now and host of Truth Be Told.

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