Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Why won’t some people pay for news?
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Sept. 9, 2021, 11:56 a.m.

Six months after The Boston Globe and Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research announced the revival of abolitionist newspaper The Emancipator, some of the puzzle pieces of the joint venture are falling into place. Amber Payne and Deborah Douglas, co-editors in chief of the new publication, shared some details on where things stand during a seminar with this year’s Nieman Fellows on Wednesday. (Payne was a 2021 Nieman Fellow.)

The Emancipator is inspired by nonprofit newsrooms. Although the publication is a partnership between Boston University and the Boston Globe, its team is actively fundraising, according to Douglas. They chose the nonprofit model because “that’s where some of the best journalism is happening,” she said. Content will be free for everyone to read.

The publication’s content will be diverse. Although the initial launch of The Emancipator will primarily be focused on commentary pieces, the publication has plans to expand beyond opinion-style pieces. In its most robust version, the Emancipator anticipates having audio and video opinion pieces, longform written pieces, political cartoons and graphic art, and data visualization-heavy pieces based on the leading news of the day. Also being considered are annotations to important scenes in history, including speeches that could use the additional context. The original Emancipator published poetry and some of those poems are relevant even today, Payne said. Breaking or daily news is unlikely to be a feature of the publication, according to Payne, who also said, “We wanna do everything — just not everything out of the gate.”

The Emancipator will be solutions-focused. The publication, which bears the name of a 19th century abolitionist paper and which bills itself as wanting to reframe conversations about racial justice, will not be advocacy-focused. “We want to be a place where conversations can be had,” said Payne. And even with these conversations, “We’re going to pick up the conversation where it is now, not where it originated,” said Douglas. When it comes to discussions about reparations for slavery, for instance, that conversation won’t delve into whether reparations are a good or bad idea, but rather what form those reparations could take.

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