How local news outlets fail to serve Black audiences

By Samuel Robinson,

4 days ago


As the news industry has shrunk, so has the number of Black reporters — especially in Detroit.

  • Longtime journalists say there aren’t as many Black reporters leading coverage on the city’s most important issues as there were in the ’80s and ’90s.

Why it matters: Black Americans aren’t optimistic that news coverage about their communities will improve anytime soon, a new study from Pew Research Center suggests.

Details: Almost two-thirds of Black Americans (63%) say news about Black people is often more negative than news about other racial and ethnic groups, the survey found.

  • Half say coverage often lacks important information, and 43% say the coverage largely stereotypes Black people.
  • About four in 10 (39%) say they come across news that is racist or racially insensitive extremely or fairly often.
  • Just 14% of Black Americans are highly confident that Black people will be covered fairly in their lifetimes.

Zoom in: “The golden age of Black journalism in Detroit was 30 years ago, a time when none of us even thought it was the golden age,” Ken Coleman, a legislative reporter for Michigan Advance , tells Axios. “The [1995 newspaper] strike happened and a lot of people didn’t go back and found new careers.”

  • Coleman, who led the Michigan Chronicle and served as segment host of the “American Black Journal” on Detroit Public Television, remembers being surrounded by Black reporters when he started covering the city in the ’90s.
  • “You had Kim Trent at the News, you had Dan Holly at the Free Press, Darren [Nichols] was right there, too. There was Susan Watson Roger Chesley Greg Bowens came over from the Flint Journal a year or two later,” Coleman says.

What they’re saying: When Detroit hosted the National Association of Black Journalists conference in 1992, Gannett took out a full back-page ad in the Detroit News showcasing its Black journalists.

  • “It was a full 8×11 filled with half-column photos; there were probably 30 people,” Coleman says.
  • “There were more Black people in the newsroom in 1992 and ’93 than there are in 2022 and ’23. We were always taught that the Civil Rights Movement had always created advances, we’d be moving forward, not backward.”

Between the lines: Some local Black journalists ta