Kathy Times, NABJ president. (Photo: Corinne Lyons)
With the rise of many new Black news outlets, it almost comes as no surprise that African-American journalists are returning to Black press from mainstream-news-outlets.
Today there are a host of Black media outlets that cater to the interests of many Black Americans including BET.com, TheRoot.com and TheGrio.com, to name a few.
“It was like coming home,” Michael Cottman, a senior correspondent at BlackAmericaWeb.com, told the Columbia Journal Review. Cottman’s journalism career dates back to 1978, when he began his work at The Atlanta Daily World, followed by a substantial career at The Miami Herald, New York Newsday and The Washington Post.
Cottman is not alone, however. More than a handful of other Blacks have made the switch, including: Amy Dubiois Barnett, who left Harper’s Bazaar and Teen People and is now the editor-in-chief at Ebony Magazine; Lynette Holloway, who left The New York Times and is now a contributor to The Root, aolblackvoices.com and Black MBA Magazine; Constance C.R. White, who left The New York Times and Women’s Wear Daily and is now the editor-in-chief at Essence, just to name a few.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of African-Americans in the newsrooms of mainstream newspapers dropped 34 percent, according to a 2010 survey by the American Society of News Editors. In 2010, 4.68 percent of US mainstream print-newsroom-jobs were held by African-Americans, a drop from 5.5 percent in 2006.
“There was the feeling that they were bumping up against glass ceilings, and that the newsrooms they were in were no longer interested in the news they wanted to do. Then on top of it, we have the turn in the news industry,” Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post tells CJR.
“People of a like mind saw they could take the skills that they had picked up in mainstream media and go back to ethnically oriented media and make them better,” he continued.
But could these jobs be causing a lack of diversity at mainstream media outlets, some of whom may need the alternate opinions that a Black journalist can contribute?
Kathy Times, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, calls the drop in minorities at major outlets “devastating.” During a visit to the Houston Chronicle, which caters to a city proper that is almost 63 percent African-American, she saw zero Blacks among the sixteen editors in a news meeting she attended.
Though the increase in Black news outlets is great, let’s hope that it’s not at the cost of sharing diverse issues with the general public through a mainstream platform.