Local news matters because it keeps community members connected and informed. It encourages people to be active and use their voices to stand up for what they believe in.
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But historically, local news has not advocated for all local voices.
We recently uncovered articles in the Golden Transcript — at nearly 156 years, the oldest newspaper in our network — that portrayed Black people, especially the Black Panther Party, in a negative light in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
While these negative articles were mostly wire stories (articles from a national syndicate), those stories had an effect on the community and contributed to the systemic structures of racism that people of color still face in and around Denver today.
Even when Black people and the Black Panther Party weren’t being negatively portrayed, they were not given the same coverage or voice in traditional media outlets like the Golden Transcript that their white counterparts were.
As a newsroom, we at Colorado Community Media and the Golden Transcript believe that it is important for newspapers to not only acknowledge past harm but also to look at where we’ve been so that in the future, we can build trust and spark a community dialogue around issues that still plague us today, like race and the way it has been covered by traditional media outlets.
In early 2021, the Colorado News Collaborative, Colorado Media Project and Free Press convened the Black Voices Working Group, which was made up of Black leaders, community members and journalists. The group addressed media coverage, focused on how to improve access to trustworthy sources of news and information for Black people and came up with five key recommendations for how Colorado newsrooms can better serve and reflect the needs and values of Black residents.
Acknowledging harm was one of them.
The Golden Transcript was awarded a grant by the nonpartisan Colorado Media Project to explore, uncover and analyze this issue in the form of a special project that will unfold in your newspaper over the next several months. The CMP is dedicated to supporting people, projects and organizations working to build a solutions-focused local news and information ecosystem for the state.
We will start by regularly adding columnists of color to our opinion pages, which are meant to reflect the diverse voices in the community but have been lacking them nonetheless.
This winter, we also will unveil a special report encompassing the interviews and analysis a team of reporters, researchers and editors in our newsroom have been gathering to explore the harmful coverage in past issues of the Golden Transcript and how that affected the community and still affects it today.
As a result of this project, we hope to host community forums around the issue, diversify our sources and begin to repair our relationship as a local media outlet with the Black community.
Local media was and still is far from perfect. At the Golden Transcript, we acknowledge that and are actively working to do better.
If you have any insight or would like to contribute a column for this project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conversation has to start somewhere and sometime, so we’re starting it now.
Kristen Fiore is the editor of the Golden Transcript.
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