S. E. Williams |
Its been 50 years since a small group of Black students at the University of California, Riverside, having grown tired of being invisible and un-represented in the school’s student publication, coalesced and published the first edition of Black Voice News (BVN) and in doing so, not only raised the voices Black students on campus and in the process provided the visibility they deserved.
Within a few short years the publication transformed from a student led, campus publication to a community-based publication, and before long, came under the stewardship of community icons, Cheryl and Hardy Brown.
As Black Voice News enters its 50th year, now under the guidance and direction of second-generation publisher Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, it looks to the future in the Ghananian tradition of Sankofa which, often symbolized by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth, as Black Voice News looks to the future it is equally committed to bringing forward lessons of the past that should not to be left behind while it simultaneiously charts a way forward in rhythm with the dynamically changing media landscape that too often accelerates forward with the Black press struggling to keep pace. Brown-Hinds is committed to writing a different future for the Black Press.
It is in this spirit that as BVN enters its 50th year we present a timeline of some of the compelling stories covered by this publication over the previous years while it also presents a roadmap, a model or a way forward not only for itself, but for other Black media outlets to consider.
In this spirit, BVN continues its mission of reporting in the tradition of the Black Press and all that commitment includes while at the same time attempting to serve as a beacon and forerunner for Black media as legacy newspapers struggle to find a sustainable model in the dynamically changing world of journalism as evidenced by this publication being the first legacy newspaper in the state of California to embrace a digital presence.
Where do we go from here?
Black Voice News entered 2022 with a clear mission: to continue telling stories of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Black community from all relevant perspectives including vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, mis- and dis- information about the virus and vaccines, the impact of recovery on employment opportunities in the Black community, housing vulnerability, food insecurity, support for delinquent water and utility bills, COVID-19 risks, impacts and vaccines for children, COVID-19 variants and mutations that continue to disproportionately impact minority communities. The issue of public health has also grown to include monitoring of the expanding impact of the monkeypox virus.
At the same time, Black Voice News is equally committed to maintain its focus on issues of equity. Our model of reporting currently rests on four pillars:
Does this story center a justice issue requiring examination is a question we seek to answer in our investigative reporting. In this regard, “justice” includes a wide range of social and political issues including everything from health, housing, employment, climate change, the environment, access to outdoor spaces, all aspects of the criminal justice system/reform and its impact on Black lives.
Justice seeking is about more than what happens in the legal system. It is about the application of fairness in all societal systems and the need to ensure fairness in rules and other regulations designed and implemented by government and other public serving institutions and corporations, are administered fairly and those in positions of authority are held accountable for failures.
One of the most significant contributions by Black Voice News to sustainability of the Black Press is the significance of telling our own stories regarding Black lives and using data to dramatize the impact. Few Black media outlets in California, or elsewhere for that matter, have the resources to search for data, process and present it in ways that not only informs but empowers the community to leverage it for change. And yet, this is an essential tool for the continuing advocacy work needed to drive change at the local, state and federal levels.
In the past, access to such data and how it was presented remained–for the most part due to the capacity of the Black Press, the exclusive domain of mainstream publications that often interpreted such information often without the insights of Black journalists/reporters. Black Voice News is working to change this paradigm by incorporating data as one of its reporting pillars and more importantly through a breakthrough strategy associated with its Mapping Black California (MBC) initiative called Da Hub, a Google News Initiative funded data hub that allows MBC to better share and store curated datasets for analysis and accessibility.
This will enable and empower Black media outlets to tell the stories of their community by presenting data through the lens of the Black Press.
DaHub, however, is not only a tool for the Black Press but also activists, philanthropists, academics, and more. Black Voice News believes access to real time and historical usable data about the Black population in California will ensure user generated content is recent, accurate, and bias-free.
Black Voice News is committed to telling stories through the voices of the communities we serve while working to amplify solutions of impact and importance to them.
To this end, BVN has embraced a model centered on audience engagement and is committed to employing a variety of options to enhance and deepen relationships within the community it serves.
BVN is working to accomplish this through a variety of engagement options from asking audience input via short surveys embedded in articles and newsletters, to hosting public listening sessions between readers and the BVN editorial team, as well as inviting the public to participate in community conversations, and engage in enhanced social media interactions.
Black Voice News knows the quest for justice requires more than merely identifying a problem. Although shining a light on important issues remains a critical role of Black media it is equally as important to consider a response to the problem and how a meaningful solution can make a difference.
BVN recognizes how such solutions often lie within the community of interest. It is also important that solutions go beyond intention, be rooted in evidence-based results and realistically address any possible limitations to the idea and includes thoughtful insights of value to those seeking ways to mitigate a community impacting concern.
Black Voice News recognizes an important part of being solutions-oriented includes giving a voice to impacted communities for possible solutions being championed by local citizens and amplifying their voices in the process.
Become a member of the Black Voice News family and stay abreast of activities making this 50th year at blackvoicenews.com and click the Become a Member button in the upper right hand corner.