WASHINGTON — On Friday, Free Press’ Media 2070 project delivered a petition to 3,000 newsrooms across the country. The petition calls on news outlets to dismantle anti-Black racism in the media, trust Black journalists and care for Black communities.
More than 5,500 petition signers are asking newsrooms to take a pledge involving eight specific actions, including refusing to criminalize Black people who are murdered by the police; being skeptical of police narratives when verifying information; and trusting Black journalists to tell nuanced stories about Black communities.
Anti-Black racism has been part of our media system’s DNA since colonial times. Media organizations were complicit in the slave trade and profited off of chattel slavery; racist journalism led to countless lynchings; Southern broadcast stations aired vociferous opposition to integration; and, in the 21st century, many media organizations prop up police and spread harmful narratives about Black people who have been murdered by cops. This history is documented in a 100-page essay that Media 2070 released last fall; the Columbia Journalism Review named it one of the top-10 pieces of racial-justice coverage of the year.
More than 30 journalism organizations have already signed the Media 2070 pledge, including the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, Scalawag Magazine, the Tucson Sentinel, WFAE-Charlotte and WREG-3 Memphis.
Media 2070 Director Alicia Bell made the following statement:
“Since the murder of George Floyd, journalists of color have challenged media outlets like The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times to address how they’ve inflicted harm both within their newsrooms and in communities of color at large. While some institutions, like The Los Angeles Times and The Kansas City Star, have issued apologies for racist coverage, a radical shift is needed for outlets to reckon with their troubling histories.
“Anti-Black racism is baked into our media system’s DNA. This has been the case since colonial times, when trafficking of enslaved Africans helped make our nation’s earliest newspapers financially viable. Not much has changed since the Kerner Commission released its landmark report in 1968, which included a chapter focused on how white news outlets contributed to the country’s racial divisions. Today we still see the media parroting police narratives and unnecessarily criminalizing Black people. The police killed Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant, Andrew Brown, Daunte Wright and countless other unarmed individuals, but racist media helped create the narratives, public opinion, and subsequently, conditions for these murders.
“News outlets frequently malign or ignore Black communities, who are overrepresented in coverage of crime and poverty. And within newsrooms, Black journalists are frequently treated with mistrust — a dynamic that has prompted too many talented reporters to leave the field.
“For all of these reasons Media 2070 is calling on newsrooms to sign our pledge to dismantle anti-Black racism. Newsrooms need to begin the hard work of upending white supremacy from within. Only then will these institutions be able to move toward a more just and equitable future.”
Media 2070 is an initiative created by the Black caucus at Free Press that calls for media reparations for the Black community. It seeks to highlight how the media can serve as a lever for racial justice — and underscore the repair and reconciliation necessary to build strong, free, democratic communities.