The landscape of journalism has been intrinsically affected by new technologies and Black newspapers -once leaders in being the predominant critical voice of society on the events and narratives being disseminated- are now on the verge of disappearance. The same can be said for journalism while Black; many Black journalists encounter innumerable barriers to telling the stories of their community with a different perspective within the newspapers and publishing houses where they are employed. But Web3 technology has come to give a new lease of life to this profession and the ability to reinvent itself while maintaining the identity, raison d'être, and ultimate mission of the Black press: to offer a full and complete view of Black culture within its appropriate context.
The marginalization of the Black press was easier to manage than Black Twitter though. Back then, publisher’s commitment to civil rights for the benefit of the race was in competition with their self-interests, so pay-offs made by the tobacco industry easily derailed or sabotaged many attempts to expand the movement far beyond what would have been possible. Today those pay-offs still exist, but there are useless and ineffective with the grass roots media and social media. Nearly 200 years later, Black media continue to create a space where Black folks can speak for ourselves about issues of importance and combat stereotypes that harm us.
The economic independence that persisted during the segregationist era was what legitimized the Black press to defend the interests of the people. In this new era, activist movements do not see as allies those same journalists who are protected by the major newspapers and media outlets. The historical Black newspapers must rethink the direction they want to take and the role they want to play in this 21st century, since the difficulties and discourse from the Black community regarding their situation in society have not changed one iota since the 1960s, since the full citizenship rights for African Americans has not been achieved up to date.
Politicians today resort to the previous tactics… during the election season, they go and meet with the Black press because they know the influence this media still has among the Black community. But this influence is in jeopardy. Advertisers are moving quietly and slowly away from traditional media outlets and pivoting to social media platforms, so these historically newspapers are losing support from both sides, subscribers (members that prefer to get their insights and news from digital platforms and social media,) and advertisers (who have found more efficient and profitable channels while targeting the Black community).
Black digital media has re-emerged as a more economical alternative for Black journalists to become self-supporting and not rely so much on VC-funded ventures for a Black-focused sub-brand or vertical. However, like YouTube influencers, they depend heavily on what the community reports from their personal social media profiles or they simply comment on what other mainstream media outlets report and give their point of view.
Social media is replacing traditional journalism… but this should not automatically mean the end of it. Let's discover how journalism can find its niche and space in this new digital era.