Jan 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Ex-CNN executive starts media venture for communities of color

 S. Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese sit for portraits.
S. Mitra Kalita (L) and Sara Lomax-Reese. Photo: Courtesy of S. Mitra Kalita

Former CNN executive S. Mitra Kalita and Philadelphia radio executive Sara Lomax-Reese have launched a newsletter seeking to expand local news on Black and brown communities to national audiences.

Why it matters: Some ethnic newspapers and local news sites focusing on people of color have suffered in recent years. The URL Media newsletter wants to bring their unique content together to attract big advertisers and facilitate underreported news.

Details: URL, which stands for Uplift, Respect and Love, has signed eight media partners, including the Brooklyn-based Haitian Times and Durham, N.C.-based Scalawag.

  • Kalita says she is in talks with other public radio stations and nonprofit media outlets about joining to create a go-to place for news about Black, Latino and Asian American communities in various cities.
  • Kalita raised eyebrows last year when the outspoken diversity media advocate left her job as senior vice president at CNN Digital to start the newsletter Epicenter-NYC.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Sara Fischer: The newsletter business, like the rest of the media industry, has struggled to embrace diverse voices. This could be in part because independent newsletter writers typically need to take on at least some risk to financially support their careers.

  • Many of the independent writers who have flocked to Substack in the past year are white men writing about topic areas like technology, business or politics, where they can blend punditry and analysis with some original reporting.

What they're saying: “We must prioritize and support Black-owned media that has been doing this work for decades. … At this moment, radical change is required," Lomax-Reese, CEO of WURD Radio, wrote earlier this month.

  • She said continuing to pour money and resources into large white-owned/led media companies that target Black consumers, but don’t empower them, "is unacceptable.”

Between the lines: The new venture comes as legacy outlets, from the Washington Post to the Associated Press, face pressure from their own journalists of color to diversify staff and coverage.

  • Former Post reporter Wesley Lowery said journalists of color often face a backlash from their white managers for speaking out and see their social media accounts closely monitored.

The intrigue: The Los Angeles Times recently launched a newsletter aimed at Latinos called the Latinx Files after issuing an apology for failing to cover race fairly throughout its existence.

  • Last month, the Kansas City Star also apologized for a history of perpetuating stereotypes of Black Kansas residents and ignoring key moments of the Civil Rights Movement.
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