A Love Letter To Black Journalists


African Male Journalist Preparing Questions For Press Conference

Dear Friend,

Our love seems to be under attack. The very thing that has saved many of our lives, the thing that’s been both our life blood and livelihood is being gutted bit by bit. Our words are being devalued. Our thoughts, erased.

Traditional media is flailing. Scores of news outlets have deployed layoffs in the past year, including The Washington Post, NPR, BuzzFeed News, Vox, The LA Tunes, Sports Illustrated, and Condé Nast among many others.

In January 2024 alone, more than 500 journalists were laid off. What’s worse is financially troubled outlets like Vice, who recently announced its pending shuttering, is reportedly planning to shut down its platform and delete the articles from their site without archiving them.

Outlets are testing out generative AI to replace us for robots.

Some influencers and celebrities are now calling themselves journalists after launching visual podcasts, or tapped as media personalities, pushing out those who, for years, have been trained in the field.

Reporter, writer, messenger, scribe, truth-teller—you have the right to be f*cking pissed right now. One of the last bastions of freedom is being mutilated right in front of our eyes. What’s more, it’s particularly hurtful because we know it wasn’t always like this.

As I have previously written about the dire importance of the preservation of Black media ownership, historians say that more than 500 Black newspapers were created in the 35 years between 1865 and the start of the 20th century. This was a time when press advocacy was critical as Black people rallied to support one another after the ending of slavery.

“The Black press was never intended to be objective because it didn’t see the white press being objective,” Phyllis Garland, a professor at Columbia’s journalism school, said in PBS’s film on the Black press. “It often took a position. It had an attitude. This was a press of advocacy. There was news, but the news had an admitted and a deliberate slant.”

Since then, journalism has been a guiding light for many of us, despite there seeming to be gradual diminishing returns on our investment. It feels as if the nuanced art and service of journalism is becoming a mere vestige of itself. There is a cultural and economic devaluing of the industry.

Journalists are continuing to be underpaid. The national average annual salary for a full-time staff reporter is around $50,000 according to current data from Zip Recruiter. As Joel Anderson, a columnist for Slate points out, being a freelance journalist is no longer sustainable.

“Today, I make $600 a column writing some places and like $750 others,” he writes in a recent essay. “Most places seem to pay about $1 a word. People can do the math.”

With that, it’s easy to feel doubly humbled by a sector that already requires you to be a public servant. A steward of democracy. A voice for the silenced.

But I want you to remember who you are. Your gift is something that makes the world more sit up right with rapt attention when it wants to remain ignorant. Your words wield power. I see you. We all do.

One of my favorite quotes from Toni Morrison goes: “I have a little framed document in my bathroom, a letter from, I think Texas Bureau of Corrections, saying that “Paradise” was banned from the prison because it might incite a riot. And I thought, how powerful is that? I could tear up the whole place!”

Another from her: “Love is divine only and difficult always.”

Our love may feel worthless right now, but as we all know, love never dies. Not really.


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