How can North Carolina local news outlets gain credibility and audience reach with Black, Latino, and Asian American people and communities? How can media organizations — especially those whose content, audience, and staffing have been mostly white — expand their coverage and representation to include more of North Carolina?
We invited three North Carolina media leaders who’ve built their success on serving BIPOC communities to share their insights during a recent workshop for the NC Media Equity Project — six mainstream media outlets that are partnering with the NC Local News Workshop to share knowledge, experience, and resources toward advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We heard from:
Glenn Burkins, founder and publisher of QCityMetro.com, which he launched in 2008 to add coverage and connection for the Charlotte area’s Black residents, currently through the website, newsletters, social media and events
Paola Jaramillo, cofounder and executive editor of Triangle-based Enlace Latino NC, which launched in 2018 and provides state and regional public affairs news, information and resources for Spanish-speaking and bilingual audiences
Samir Shukla, who cofounded Charlotte-based Saathee magazine (a glossy print magazine and digital site) 23 years ago with his brother to provide cultural connection and news for South Asian communities, primarily in the Carolinas but also with reach in other parts of the Southeast
Here are a few takeaways from these media leaders:
1. ‘You have to be there for the long run’
QCityMetro’s Burkins, who built a career as a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer and Charlotte Observer, among others, said the outlet’s website traffic jumped amid the COVID pandemic — and that it has continued to grow afterward, reflecting hard-won trust built on its coverage. Early on, Burkins and QCity pressed Mecklenburg County health officials on the pandemic’s heavier impact on Black residents, and it continued to cover that impact and other aspects of the crisis in ways that told readers the outlet was looking out for them, he said.
“Mainstream media — and that is where I kind of earned my bones — is largely reactionary: It goes wherever the hot story is and stays for awhile, and then it leaves,” Burkins said. “If you want to forge true relationships with communities you cover, you can’t be reactionary. You have to be there for the long run.”