Just in time for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post had its own unveiling this week. The staid newspaper quietly added a ‘black news section’ to its website.
Except for a few paragraphs in Richard Prince’s Journalisms — a media watchdog column about issues facing minority journalists — the Post’s new ‘black section’ received scant attention.
In 2008, The Washington Post introduced TheRoot.com, an online magazine targeting African American readers. Last year, MSNBC introduced thegriot.com, which it touted as the ”first video-centric news community site devoted to providing African Americans with stories and perspectives that appeal to them but are underrepresented in existing national news outlets.” More recently, AOL’s The Huffington Post relaunched Black Voices, a message board/chat forum-turned-online news and entertainment publication. Now The Washington Post is upping the ante again with its online black news section, aptly called ‘The Root DC.’
“The Root DC will serve as a must-read source of content from a black perspective with features including daily updated event listings, profiles of people around the region, video stories and reader essays about things or people that bind, uplift and annoy the community,” states a press release.
Sounds like it will pretty much be like the other black news sites mentioned above. Except it will be a separate section within the Post’s main website.
More than three and a half million African-American adults were online at the beginning of the decade. Between 2000 and 2010 the proportion of internet users who are black or Latino nearly doubled—from 11 percent to 21 percent, according to a report issued by the Pew Research Center last year. It’s no wonder that cash-strapped newspapers and other traditional media companies want to capitalize on this growth.
I am just unsure whether this is a good or bad thing.
Minority groups, led by African Americans, have long criticized mainstream news organizations for doing a poor job of properly covering their communities, so many may welcome the Post’s new emphasis of covering African Americans in the nation’s capital. But I have to wonder if creating a separate ”black section” will actually address the root (pardon the pun) of the problem.
It also makes me wince as I cannot help but recall days long gone by when mainstream news publications dedicated separate but equal column inches for ‘black’ content under such headings as ‘Colored’ and/or ‘Negro’ news. Content under the headings ‘Negro News’ and ‘Colored News’ were common place in print publications during and before the 1960s. Could we be witnessing a resurgence online?
During this weekend in which we reflect upon the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C., the decision by the town’s paper of record to section off ‘black news’ may also make some ponder as to whether we’re moving forward… or backward.