By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Barr Foundation

GBH News creates Equity and Justice unit with $750k grant

GBH News, the local arm of the public broadcasting behemoth GBH, is launching an initiative to cover racial and socioeconomic equity issues with the support of a $750,000 grant from the Barr Foundation. The Boston Globe’s newly created Power, Money, Inequality project is also being funded through a $750,000 Barr grant. The GBH press release follows.

GBH News, the fastest-growing local newsroom in the region, today announced the creation of an ambitious new multiplatform unit that will focus on racial and socioeconomic equity issues in Greater Boston and beyond. The Equity and Justice unit will develop regional and national interest stories around these key topics, expanding its commitment to community events, engaging directly with the audience, and elevating community voices using the GBH News platform.

“Shining a light on inequity — whether around healthcare, housing, income, or other topics — is an important job for our news organization,” said Susan Goldberg, president and CEO of GBH. “As the nation’s largest producer of public media content, we want to ensure awareness of these pressing issues is woven into the stories we tell, the way we work, and the platforms on which we share news and information.”

GBH News has a demonstrated commitment to multi-platform coverage exposing inequities in the region, such as educational disparities, unequal access to public spaces, the dogged fight for affordable housing and equity among city contracts as well as the rise of white supremacist extremism.

Over the next three years, GBH News will produce a number of in-depth, multiplatform series, along with in-person community engagement events throughout Massachusetts. GBH News will deepen and expand its relationships with community-based media of color and with influencers in those communities to foster richer two-way communication.

“Over the past three years, GBH News has worked to become an audience-focused, multiplatform news organization that tells distinctive local stories, informed by the communities we serve,” said Pam Johnston, General Manager for GBH News. “We are creating an inclusive and culturally responsive newsroom committed to trust and collaboration, accessibility and impact. We want to cover both the problems and the solutions to better serve an increasingly diverse and curious population.”

GBH News Executive Editor Lee Hill will oversee the unit, staffed from current reporters, editors, and new hires. The content will be distributed across all GBH News properties, including GBH flagship radio and television shows, YouTube, social and digital platforms, and via partners at New England Public Media (NEPM) in western Massachusetts, the New England News Collaborative (NENC), and CAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

“To be successful, we have to change the very nature of how we approach local journalism. We must increase our capacity to report on the systemic barriers disproportionately blocking marginalized communities from thriving,” said Hill. “We’ll deepen our commitment to our audience, listening to them and investing the time and resources needed to better understand what matters most to them while amplifying their voices and life experiences. Ultimately, this will help us connect with an audience that has never fully seen themselves represented in public media.”

This focus on community has already yielded notable successes. A limited-run broadcast of Spanish-language show “Salud” increased listenership among Hispanic audiences on 89.7FM. A similar collaboration with local podcaster James Hills brought his program “Java with Jimmy” to GBH’s Boston Public Library studio space.

The unit is being supported with a $750,000 grant from the Barr Foundation. The grant will help GBH News continue transforming its coverage and newsroom systems to ensure every story includes an awareness of minority experiences.

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A new Globe vertical will explore the racial wealth gap

Earlier today The Boston Globe unveiled Money, Power, Inequality, a new vertical dedicated to reporting on the racial wealth gap. It’s got its own section on the paper’s website as well as its own editor-in-chief, Kris Hooks, previously an assistant metro editor who worked at the NPR affiliate in Sacramento, California, before coming to the Globe. He also teaches a course on Race & Gender in the Media at Sacramento City College. Hooks writes:

The Globe has launched a new team that will zero in on the racial wealth gap, why it persists, and what can be done to close it. The team, called Money, Power, Inequality, will explore the city’s history of inequities, probing Boston’s role in the slave trade and tracing the systems that have perpetuated the racial wealth gap since. And we’ll look beyond Boston, to communities where prices are lower, but power imbalances still flourish.

Longtime Globe journalist Milton Valencia will serve as deputy editor. The initiative, announced last January, is being supported with a $750,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

Money, Power, Inequality comes on the heels of “Nightmare in Mission Hill,” a text-based series, podcast and documentary film that attempts to deal with the racist legacy left behind by the 1989 Carol and Charles Stuart case, in which Charles Stuart murdered his wife and blamed it on a Black man, turning the city upside-down for months.

It also follows the end of the Globe’s involvement in The Emancipator, a collaboration with Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. Unlike The Emancipator, whose Globe half was based in the paper’s opinion section, Money, Power, Inequality will be part of the news operation — and will be entirely under the control of the Globe.

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More details on Closing the Gap, the Globe’s new project on racial wealth disparities

Millions March Boston against police brutality and systemic racism. Photo (cc) 2014 by Tim Pierce.

Two weeks ago I broke the news that The Boston Globe is launching a grant-supported project called Closing the Gap, which will “explore the racial wealth gap in Boston and beyond.” Now the Globe itself is making it official, reporting that the paper will begin the project with a $750,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

Despite The Barr Foundation’s funding, the Globe will have complete editorial control over the initiative,” according to the Globe’s story about the project. “The team will operate similarly to The Great Divide, a team of Globe journalists focused on investigating race, class, and inequality in Boston-area schools, and that is also partially funded by Barr.”

The story also says that the intent is to build on its 2017 Spotlight series “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality,” which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. A search committee for an editor-in-chief will comprise metro editor Anica Butler, business columnist Shirley Leung and senior assistant managing editor Jeneé Osterheldt.

Although the story doesn’t say so, I would imagine that incoming editor Nancy Barnes will have a say as well. Barnes will succeed longtime editor Brian McGrory on Feb. 1, when McGrory leaves to chair Boston University’s journalism department. McGrory explained the purpose behind Closing the Gap in an email to the staff, a copy of which I received from a trusted source:

Hey all,

We’ve made issues of inequality a focus of our coverage for many, many years, a mandate because Boston is one of the most unequal places on the planet. We’ve done award-winning work, like Spotlight’s 2017 race series and the Valedictorians Project. We’ve dedicated the Great Divide team to looking at the manifestation of inequality in our public schools. We have imbued inequality into so many of our key beats. It has all been utterly vital.

Which is why I’m delighted to share the news that we’ve received a grant for $750,000 a year to build a team to focus on the racial wealth gap in Boston and beyond. The grant comes from the Barr Foundation. We’ll dedicate resources of our own, and use the grant to hire a team leader and several additional journalists who will probe the causes of this seismic gap in wealth, the impact it has on life in Boston, and how it can be addressed.

This won’t only be a news team, or an enterprise team, or a projects team. It will be all that and more. Its metabolism will be high. Its approach will be thoughtful. Its work will be approachable and provocative. The gap has been pondered in plenty of deeply researched white papers that sit on high shelves. We intend to bring it to life, vividly exposing its consequences and rigorously exploring solutions. In short, we’ll look at how we got to a place where the average Black family has a net worth of $8 and white families have $247,000, and how do we get out.

As Barr has recently focused much of its mission on issues of racial equity, we engaged them in conversation about our work. Anica Butler and Shirley Leung put together a brilliant proposal that will serve as a blueprint for what this team will be and should accomplish. The grant was made in swift fashion.

The Barr Foundation has funded a good part of our Great Divide team for the past three-plus years. That experience has shown us just how much Barr appreciates the role of journalism in civic life – and how much it respects the firewall between us. On the wealth gap team, as with the education team, Barr has no say, no role, in what we produce.

The first order of business is finding an editor to oversee the team, which will live in Metro. If you’re interested, or you want to recommend someone, please reach out to Anica, Shirley, or Jeneé. We’re launching an initiative that is breaking new ground in our industry and will have a massive impact on our region. More to come as it unfolds.


A for-profit newspaper asks its readers for donations in the name of its journalists

Several readers called this Washington Post piece to my attention over the weekend. It’s about a fundraising drive recently held by the Tampa Bay Times to offset some of the advertising revenue it lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post reporter  Elahe Izadi observes that the idea isn’t entirely new. The Seattle Times has engaged in community fundraising drives, and The Times-Picayune and The New Orleans Advocate (one entity) received $1 million over the summer from the Ford Foundation. For that matter, The Boston Globe pays for some of its education reporting with a $600,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

What makes the Tampa Bay project unusual is that the paper asked for people to donate in support of individual journalists, by name. That makes me a little uncomfortable, and I hope the next time they do this they abandon that particular wrinkle.

As you may know, the Tampa Bay Times, a for-profit newspaper, is owned by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism education institute. Back when Nelson Poynter melded the Times and the institute together, the expectation was that the newspaper — rolling in cash — could use some of its revenues to support the institute.

Needless to say, that stopped a long time ago. The Times has struggled for the past few  years, and has cut back its print edition to twice a week. It’s still a great ownership model, though, emulated several years ago when Philadelphia Inquirer owner Gerry Lenfest donated his paper to the nonprofit Philadelphia Foundation. After Lenfest’s death, the organization that was set up to own the Inquirer and make investments in journalism was renamed the Lenfest Institute.

By the way, I really like the front page of today’s Tampa Bay Times. Let’s just hope they’re not fundraising off a commemorative issue later this week. Go Sox!

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