By Kiah Armstrong
The NABJ Media Network is set to launch at the end of August. The web-based digital site will have articles centered around issues that impact the Black community through the lenses of the Black community.
NABJ Founder Sandra Dawson Long Weaver will serve as the editor-in-chief, Tamara Banks will serve as the director of content and media partnerships, and Drew Berry as executive director.
NABJ partnered up with the Reynolds Institute of Journalism, which offered student help.
The site will feature 90% of its news from NBC, CNBC, ESPN, Bloomberg, and more. A portion of the site will also aggregate original content from freelancers who are NABJ members. They will have the opportunity to pitch stories and will be given stories that no other news organization is covering.
“Members have pushed for this news site for decades, and we finally have something that is our own voice, which is one of the most important and innovative things that NABJ has done since its founding in 1975. This is a gamechanger,” Weaver said. “This allows us to tell stories from our point of view.”
Weaver will lead the effort by looking for stories from various sources about the Black community that the network can aggregate. She will also take issues and topics that are circulating that can be produced into original content, such as commentary from NABJ members who can take listeners on a deeper dive of what’s really going on.
The Black Press grants given by the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative allowed NABJ to give 28 awards up to $10,000 to freelancers or Black-owned media to write about how COVID-19 affected the Black community and education. All of those stories will be featured on the site.
With a portion of the funding coming from Craig Newmark of Craigslist and the Reynolds Institute of Journalism, which helped build the $5,000-$7,000 site, it wasn’t just the money that pushed this initiative forward. Banks says it was this moment in time.
Banks says with the protests of police brutality, killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many more, and the election of Donald Trump, racism that many Black Americans knew still existed was now in the faces of all Americans.
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in a newsroom, and they will call a rally and a celebration of a team winning the Stanley Cup and say, ‘Oh they’re celebrating’ where they’re destroying property and there are people getting hurt,” said Banks. “And you have Black folks protesting inequities, and that’s a riot.”
Partnering up with other news organizations will allow the Media Network to set up plugins on the backend of these news sites or an RSS feed through which they will be able to get the stories straight from the source. This also helps NABJ push the stories that are being produced by Black-owned media into more communities.
Content for the site can come in the form of print or broadcast and can be featured on the network’s partner sites. The website will also have advertisements.
“Where we are today, we would not be here, this organization, this website, had it not been for the leadership and really the courage that Black reporters had 45 years ago, like founder Weaver to step out there and tell newsrooms that we have a voice and we have a lens,” said Banks.
The website is currently undergoing a soft launch, which has a focus group of about 30 people testing it through Aug. 23.