Amplifying Black voices in Atlanta through journalism
By Gavin Godfrey, Atlanta Editor, Capital B
Last September I was invited to the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas. That timing is important. I was joined by other local (and some international) news editors, producers and reporters for an election misinformation symposium. With the midterm election right around the corner, we gathered to discuss ways our newsrooms could craft coverage that engaged audiences with information they can trust.
For one of the sessions, the discussion revolved around battleground states and the pandemic. A television news producer out of Wisconsin was expressing frustrations that viewers were listening to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ false claims about COVID-19 vaccines as opposed to trusting their local reporters.
In his Wisconsin dialect, Rodgers ad libbed a phrase I’ve heard before: “Well, dontcha know, a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth can hop out of bed and get its pants on.”
Five months later those words (and that accent) are still stuck in my head. At Capital B Atlanta, a Black-led nonprofit news organization, our mission is to bring news to Black communities. Our work revolves around the truth, but we live in an age of rampant misinformation campaigns targeting minority communities.
In 2023, locals are navigating short attention spans while cutting through the noise being shouted from digital megaphones by anonymous social media accounts, influencers and misinfo evangelists spreading “fake news” gospels. However, one bit of good news emerged in the last two years: more than 70 local newsrooms launched during the pandemic.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
Yes, the business of news is struggling. However, local communities’ need for information to help them engage with civic life is more urgent now than ever. Residents in Atlanta, the metro area and state want to know how news will cover the issues in their backyard. Where can they go to find info on voting, city government, public safety, health issues, housing, and education?
We’re doing our part at Capital B Atlanta, the first in a network of local newsrooms which also includes Gary, Indiana.
Since we launched on Jan. 31 of 2021 we’ve been busy. Through our community engagement efforts, we’ve been able to connect with 200 residents in Atlanta and learn more about the issues affecting their communities and how the local news does (or doesn’t shed) shed light on those stories. We’ve hosted election focus groups, criminal justice panels, and created spaces for dialogue in an effort to inform the public, but also provide a chance to amplify those Black voices often overlooked in and outside of the Perimeter. It’s these very conversations that Capital B Atlanta’s team uses to inform our reporting.
During the midterm elections, we spoke to residents for our ongoing “What Black Voters Are Saying” series to hear directly from the everyday people casting ballots for issues that hit close to home. In addition to voters, we spoke to prominent Black candidates including Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock.
We partnered with the Center for Civic Innovation, Atlanta Civic Circle, Canopy Atlanta and Axios Atlanta to help residents understand the city budget. Through a series of articles and programming, we invited everyday Atlantans to learn how they can participate in the budget process, and provided information to explain how the city planned to use their money in the new fiscal year.
We led health coverage around the MPox outbreak and its effect on Black communities. We were there to cover the closures of Atlanta Medical Center South’s emergency room in East Point and Atlanta Medical Center Old Fourth Ward.
As it pertains to criminal justice and public safety, our reporting has touched on everything from youth violence, the fight over Cop City, and racial profiling to providing useful service explainers on how residents can navigate the legal system.
In the city hailed as the “Black Mecca” local news overlooks its everyday Black citizens not working in entertainment, sports, or politics. It’s these oft-forgotten neighborhoods, voices and issues in Atlanta that need our journalistic attention. It’s our job to share Black stories. It’s our job to deliver the relevant, factual info to Black communities. If local news doesn’t do it, who else will?
Read more about the issues affecting Black Atlantans in the latest issue of Capital B here.
Learn how the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is working to bolster local journalism by news outlets such as Capital B throughout metro Atlanta, here.
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