A new study from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY offers an insight into why Black media matters now. The report is a content analysis of the Black press and mainstream media in the United States, and it shows how Black media has continued a tradition started by the Freedom’s Journal in 1827.

It has been nearly 200 years since a group of free Black men founded the Journal, and Black media continues to be a platform for the community to have its own voice about important issues.

Key findings include:

  • Black media publishes as much as six times the amount of coverage on important issues to the Black community (racism, health disparities, voting access) than the MSM
  • Black media “leads the way” on racism-related stories, granting them higher levels of attention that begin earlier in the news cycle than the MSM
  • Black media centers the community and “humanizes the individuals and groups in the news”
  • Black media connects topical events to broader issues of injustice, like threats to “voting access, disparities in medical care, and policing and mass incarceration”
  • Black media includes historical context in stories to present day challenges

Diving in deeper, the research found that 23% of Black media stories mention racism or related issues, compared to only 8% in MSM stories. Turning to COVID-19 coverage, the Black media wrote five times more than the MSM about the disproportionate impact the pandemic continues to have on the Black community, and in general, covers health topics relevant to Black communities at higher levels: maternal health, hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and sickle cell disease. Finally, the Black media included voting access in 12% of stories, which was more than twice what the MSM did.

“Nearly 200 years later, Black media have continued to advocate for justice and for the Black community to vote in order to counteract the challenges Black communities have faced related to voting access, the pandemic and systemic racism,” Cheryl Thompson-Morton, the Black Media Initiative Director at the Center for Community Media, wrote in a statement. “Black media play this role in an incomparable way. Even after the death of George Floyd, mainstream media did not connect these issues to voting and justice like Black media did.”