Will the media still care about Black people after this historic moment has passed?

Photo credit: Roger Fountain

Dear media,

As a Black writer, I'm torn.

At this moment, I know you need me, and although I want to capitalize on that need, I need you to reflect, focus and institute significant and sustainable changes in your outlets. George Floyd is the news cycle now, but black bodies have been a casualty to white supremacy for hundreds of years. Too many Black people have died at the hands of police officers. Is this finally the moment of change? Think for a minute, why now?

You need my voice, insight and ability to help you navigate and understand our exploding racial powder keg. But most of all, you need my stories, my insight and my perception to speak to the moment. My question is, where will you be when I need you after this moment has passed?



Today, you fill your pages and websites with our bylines and content, hoping to infuse perspective and color into predominantly white content. You mine our pain with op-eds explaining systemic racism and the unyielding murders of our fathers, brothers, lovers, sons and daughters.

Will you still love us when the news cycle shifts? Or will we hear what we've heard so many times before? Crickets.

Will you be there to offer us the coveted jobs, with full-time benefits and paychecks that pay the bills? Or are your mastheads so full of white faces that you can't see us staring at you?

I've worked on staff in several television and radio newsrooms and gotten plum assignments as a freelance writer. I've even been fortunate enough to have stories published in prominent outlets and have been a journalist for eleven years. But I've seen firsthand the extreme racial disparities in the media. I've been the only person of color on a web team or in a newsroom. I've seen how few people of color are employed full-time at many organizations. I've rarely seen people who look like me inhabit the coveted seats of power.

You may ask: Why should we care?

These positions give writers like me the freedom to continue our craft, establish stable careers and support younger writers. It also provides us with the fantasy to explore our communities and the world at large—not just when one of us is struck down in cold blood.

Ebonye Gussine Wilkins' work focuses on media inclusion and better representation. She helps corporations, nonprofits and individuals assess their content and revise or create better work to reflect the communities they serve. Wilkins explains it like this: "Part of preventing this kind of scramble at the last minute would be to hire writers of color much earlier," she says. "Hire them more regularly, pay them proper rates, not the bottom of the barrel rates, and give them an opportunity to write about things other than just 'black issues.'"

In other words, editors, you're the gatekeepers. It's not enough for your outlets to hire the "one." The token African American, Asian, Native American, or person of Latin origins to sit in your newsroom and write, edit and assign all the stories about people in underrepresented communities. One is not enough.

Solomon Jones recently wrote an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer about being the only Black male news columnist. He described the issue as a problem that exists at most major outlets. "It is whiteness — the structures and social phenomena that produce white privilege — that causes outlets like The Inquirer to publish racially offensive material," Jones wrote. Adding, "I truly believe it is not always intentional. However, when your editors are overwhelmingly white when you are self-congratulatory in your white liberalism, and when you routinely ignore the input of black people, you end up with headlines like "Buildings Matter, Too."

This month, Hearst Magazines named its first Black editor-in-chief. Samira Nasr to helm Harper's BAZAAR. She is the first black editor-in-chief in the history of the 153-year-old Hearst-owned publication. Let that sink in for a moment.

Condé Nast beat Hearst eight years ago when Keija Minor was appointed as the first African American editor-in-chief of a Conde Nast publication in 2012.

But let's not get too excited about Condé Nast. Amid ongoing allegations of racism and unequal treatment at Bon Appétit, editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned. Days later, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988, artistic director for Condé Nast, and Vogue's publisher, since 2013, released a letter of apology for the lack of diversity at Vogue.

"We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes," Wintour wrote. "It can't be easy to be a Black employee at Vogue, and there are too few of you. I know that it is not enough to say we will do better, but we will — and please know that I value your voices and responses as we move forward."

Jonita Davis is an Indiana-based writer who covers social and cultural topics. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox, Sisters from AARP, and others. She explained that outlets that had previously ghosted her are now clamoring for her stories. She says that as much as she has "FOMO" aka "fear of missing out," she's too pissed to take the assignments.

"If you can't go to your staff now to cover protests and all the issues happening now, then maybe that's a problem," Davis says. "If you have to go running and looking for Black writers, then you don't have a diverse staff. Instead of publications looking to this moment as a call to action to change things, they're patting themselves on the back for hiring Black freelancers."

Just in case you don't know the rates for freelance writers at major outlets – they range from the rare outlet that pays $1 or $2 a word to $100 for thousands of words – which is not enough to survive on.

So, here we are, and here are the facts. Real and lasting change comes from hiring people of color for full-time writing, editing and management positions that pay good salaries with benefits. The truth is, it's great that Black voices are being heard now, but it should have happened long ago.

The question is simple. But, the answer is far more complicated. You need us now. But will you still want us tomorrow?


Rebekah Sager is an award-winning journalist with over a decade of experience covering news, lifestyle, entertainment, and human-interest stories. She's contributed to Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Vice, The Hollywood Reporter, GOOD, and more. She's profiled Billy Porter, Ru Paul, Kathy Griffin, Amber Rose, Danny Trejo and the founder of Kind Bars, and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Cullors to name a few. Sager is currently working on a book about her years working in media called "Clickable & Sharable," a Black girl version of "Bridget Jones Diary," meets "A Devil Wears Prada."

True

As part of its promise for a brighter world, Dole is partnering with Bye Bye Plastic Bags's efforts to bring sunshine to all.

Visit www.sunshineforall.com to learn more.

Who would have thought that giving the world access to all human knowledge via the internet, the ability to follow and hear from experts on any subject via social media, and the ability to see what's happening anywhere in the world via smartphones with cameras would result in a terrifying percentage of the population believing and spouting nothing but falsehoods day in and day out?

Those of us who value facts, reason, and rational thought have found ourselves at some of our fellow citizens and thinking, "Really? THIS is how you choose to use the greatest tool humanity has ever created? To spew unfounded conspiracy theories?"

It's a marvel, truly.

Between Coronavirus/Bill Gates/5G conspiracies and QAnon/Evil Cabal/Pedophile conspiracies, I thought we were pretty much full up on kooky for 2020. But apparently not. The massive fires up and down the West Coast have ignited even more conspiracy theories, some of which local law enforcement and even the FBI have had to debunk.

Keep Reading Show less
True

In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

1 / 12

Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

DiMezzo is clear about why she ran—to show how "clueless the average voter is" and to prove that "the system is utterly and hopelessly broken"—stances that her win only serves to reinforce.

In a blog post published on Friday, DiMezzo explained how she had never tried to hide who she was and that anyone could have looked her up to see what she was about, in addition to pointing out that those who are angry with her have no one to blame but themselves:

Keep Reading Show less
Katie Neeves (L) photo by Jayne Walsh, JK Rowling (R) photo by Sjhill, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear JK Rowling,

I am writing this letter to say a big thank you to you. You may think it strange that a gobby trans woman such as me would wish to thank you after all your recent transphobic outpourings, but let me explain…

I certainly don't thank you for your lengthy essay last month where you describe the abuse you have suffered (for which you have my sympathy) and in which you stated that you do not hate trans people, while at the same time peddling even more anti-trans mis-information. Sadly, your diatribe directly caused some trans children to self-harm and other to attempt suicide.

Keep Reading Show less