Mainstream Media Continues to Fail Black Voices
Don’t be fooled by the new ‘woke’ race coverage — it’s business as usual
“A change is gonna come,” Sam Cooke sang on his 1964 album, Ain’t That Good News. Five months later, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it did. But the burden of being Black in America has barely budged.
Changes, though, keep coming. Ever since George Floyd’s murder last year ushered in a new age of racial unrest and reckoning in the U.S., many mainstream publications have shifted focus to race-related content. That has resulted in increased awareness and more freelance work for me, but I’ve remained wary.
Is it just about keeping up appearances, or do the White editors and executives who call most of the shots want to enact meaningful change? I’m skeptical — and not just because it’s my nature to have doubts.
I’ve written several race-themed pieces for one of these content-shifting websites over the last year. It’s a major player tied to an American publishing institution, one so iconic and globally reputable that my Australian husband grew up with it. As encouraged as I was by the steady stream of “How Not to Be Racist” content, their commitment to Black careers hasn’t held up as well.
As is the case with many websites, even ones with huge international followings, the pay wasn’t great. I believed in the work, so that wasn’t a significant deterrent. Still, after completing a few stories that needed more writing and research than the $200 rate deserved, I sent an email to my editor asking if I could receive a boost in compensation.
This editor — who had to ask me to recommend a Black writer for a story she wanted to assign last year at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests — never responded. But the rate for my next assignment increased to $250. We continued collaborating for the next several months, and I received consistent positive reinforcement for my work.
Black journalists only matter when race is trending and the mainstream media need to roll us out to create an illusion of diversity. When it comes to committing to our careers, the gatekeepers…