Free Press’ Black caucus launched the Media 2070 project in 2020 as an effort to radically transform who has the capital to tell their own stories 50 years from today. This happened in the midst of a global pandemic and national uprisings in response to the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
So much in the world has shifted since, and there’s so much more to come for Media 2070. In honor of Free Press’ 20th anniversary, we thought we’d reflect on the past three years of this work and share some of our journey with you.
Year 1: building the foundation (2020–2021)
In our inaugural year, Media 2070 set out on a mission to pull back the veil on anti-Black racism in the U.S. media system. We began this process by releasing a 100-page research essay, Media 2070: An Invitation to Dream Up Media Reparations. Our piece examines how the media system has harmed communities of color for centuries.
This dates back to colonial times, when profits from the trafficking of enslaved people helped keep newspapers afloat. Our essay also lifts up examples of Black resistance, like the work of pioneering journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells.
So many people have let us know that they use this resource and its accompanying discussion guide in their research, classroom discussions, academic and movement convenings, and many other places and spaces. We’re grateful to everyone who has helped establish our essay as a trusted source of information and a catalyst for change. Thank you!
Other key achievements in our first year included:
- The Columbia Journalism Review named the Media 2070 essay one of the top-10 pieces of racial-justice coverage of 2020.
- Media 2070 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. We held a conversation on “Newsrooms and Black Truths” with Tulsa journalists and published a piece documenting how local media fueled the massacre and subsequently covered it up.
- Media 2070 delivered a petition to 3,000 newsrooms across the country that calls on outlets to dismantle anti-Black racism, trust Black journalists and care for Black communities. Since delivering this petition, we’ve gotten 80+ signers, including Mother Jones, Press On and Yes! Magazine.
- Rep. Jamaal Bowman and 24 House colleagues called on the FCC to examine how its policy choices have harmed Black people and other communities of color. Our team also hosted a briefing with Rep. Bowman.
- Media 2070 delivered a letter to the Federal Communications Commission from 100 journalists, media-makers and public-interest groups that calls on the agency to investigate its history of racial inequity in policymaking. The FCC gave only white men radio licenses during the Jim Crow era, and has generally excluded Black people from media-ownership opportunities.
Year 2: journalism for impact (2021–2022)
In our second year, the Media 2070 project’s commitment to realizing a just media system became even more evident. We continued to champion Black media and stories through the following accomplishments:
- #BlackFutureHeadlines launched as a social-media-based narrative action inviting folks to dream up news headlines from a future on the other side of reparations. More than 600 tweets were shared from participants including the Movement for Black Lives, Naomi Klein, Charlene Carruthers, Bridget Todd and supporters around the world.
- Media 2070, Georgetown Law and the University of Houston Law Center held a remarkable two-day colloquium on race, racism and American media. Speakers included former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, University of Pennsylvania scholar Antoine Haywood, MediaJustice founder Malkia Devich Cyril, UCLA Professor and MacArthur Fellow Safiya Noble, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
- We premiered and toured our award-winning documentary, Black in the Newsroom. The film centers on Elizabeth Montgomery, a talented Black journalist who landed her dream job at The Arizona Republic but ended up fighting a deep-rooted system of harm.
Year 3: innovating the future (2022–2023)
As we celebrate our third year, the work of co-creating portals toward a future that’s ripe with media reparations continues:
- Media 2070 developed and taught the month-long course “Diagnosing the Media System” at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. This custom curriculum focuses on media reparations and new forms of journalism, and is available for teaching in a variety of classroom and conference settings. We’ve been invited to bring the class back to Colorado College in 2024 and are hoping to take it to other college campuses, especially Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
- Black Future Newsstand, a custom-built in-person art installation we developed in partnership with the Black Thought Project, debuted in Harlem with a full week of events timed to coincide with Juneteenth. The exhibit invites participants into a future media that loves Black people. A full recap of the launch appears here; stay tuned as the Black Future Newsstand (and a documentary on its creation) makes its way across the country in 2024.
Looking forward (2023 & beyond)
As we move into the next phase of our journey, Media 2070 remains committed to serving as an organizing hub for the many media-makers, journalists, scholars, organizers, artists and community storytellers looking to create the media system that’s needed to realize Black liberation. Our work comes to life in and through four core focus areas:
- Developing policy interventions by surfacing histories and shifting power in service of repairing centuries of harm, enslavement and colonialism
- Facilitating popular education on anti-Black media harm and visions for the future of media reparations through irresistible curricula, creative resources and cultural strategies
- Modeling new media culture by helping media workers organize in solidarity against the status quo
- Building field capacity and infrastructure by organizing solidarity and resources that nourish and fuel all parts of the work of winning media reparations and advancing liberative Black narrative power
Reflecting on three years of Media 2070 reminds us that the journey is as important as the destination. It’s a testament to our ability to adapt, learn and persevere in the face of challenges. As we move forward, we carry the lessons from the past and the excitement of the future.
We hope to keep making space for new dreams, and invite you to join us in this work. Here’s to the next chapter!