In 1972 students at the University of California, Riverside, led by Artis Lilly, started the Black Voice News because they wanted to “plead their own cause” on campus. Once they graduated the newspaper moved to community ownership under the stewardship of publisher Sam Martin. He eventually sold the newspaper to my parents Hardy and Cheryl Brown in 1980 who turned it into a premier community newspaper, with a focus on anti-discrimination and justice reporting.
Under their leadership, the Black Voice News became the first Black newspaper on the West Coast to launch a website. The Browns covered the community from watchdog reporting on local government to profiles on community leaders making a difference to coverage of community events and special occasions. And they were recognized for their tenacity in publishing the truth about the killing of Tyisha Miller by local police as the only living publishers included in the 175th anniversary of the Black Press of America’s Gallery of Greats. Their names were included on a list of historic publishers including — Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Carlotta Bass—all of whom overcame obstacles to publish the truth and to give a voice to the voiceless.
For the past decade, I have led the transformation of the Black Voice News, maintaining a focus on justice and equity, but utilizing new technologies and a solutions focused data reporting approach.
As the fourth estate, we are tasked with informing and engaging the community around information, and we need access to high quality data to provide high quality and accountable information. And if our role as news media is to analyze, contextualize, and offer solutions, then we believe innovations in data reporting and solutions journalism can become a model of resilience and sustainability for Black Press, and we’re starting with interrogating our own work at the Black Voice News.
Over the years we have assembled an award-winning and skilled editorial and reporting team led by Executive Editor Stephanie Williams. She leads a team of emerging journalists with graduate degrees from Columbia University, University of California Berkeley and the London School of Economics. They have received fellowships in data reporting and visual storytelling. And they are supported by a solid data & mapping team led by Project Director Candice Mays and Project Manager Alex Reed.
With major disruptions in the local news industry, our business model to support this work is also changing. As we continue to move into the digital space, we are relying less on print advertising and instead relying on diverse revenue streams including reader supported revenue, local donors and members; grants and other philanthropic support, which we treat as venture capital making investments in infrastructure and investigative and data reporting.
We have expanded our educational study tours under the leadership of Footsteps to Freedom Managing Principal Hardy Brown II; and through our data and mapping consultancy, our in-house team supports the newsroom but also consults for other community-focused organizations including working on research projects like “Listening to Black Californians” by the California Health Care Foundation, as well as our flagship projects: a Black-Led Organization searchable database and a “Racism as a Public Health Crisis” data tracker.
In an effort to listen more to our community as we continue to grow and innovate, we launched 50×50 where over the course of our golden year we will host 50 listening sessions to inform our reporting. We look forward to hearing from each of you.
Over the next year to celebrate our 50 year milestone we will be hosting quarterly events to bring the community together including:
FALL: Festival of Ideas
WINTER: Ujima Celebration
SPRING: Black Voice News 50th Exhibition
SUMMER: Footsteps to Freedom Conference
Please register here to stay informed as we celebrate throughout the year. We can’t do any of this without you.
Paulette Brown-Hinds, PhD