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How Community Media Can Encourage Minority Communities To Engage

When I walk into a room at any media conference in the Midwest, I’m usually one of only a few black women in the room. The smaller the town, the fewer black women there are in the room.

Statistics back up my personal experience: the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University released a 2015 study that found of the 32,900 people employed in newspaper newsrooms around the country, about 4,200, or 12.76%, are racial minorities.

As Taylor Harris wrote in an article for the Democracy Fund, “diversity in the media is critical to a functioning democracy.” In the same article, she writes that most journalists are white males who do not accurately reflect the country’s demographics; this absence of diverse voices, “diminishes the engagement of the public in civic affairs and newsrooms.”

Ernesto Aguilar is membership program director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB). In a Twitter interview conducted via direct message, Aguilar said that “community media, especially community radio stations, can be fairly criticized for not doing enough outreach to communities of color, but it’s a small quibble that does not detract from the special opportunity community radio creates.” Matthew Ingram wrote in a Fortune article that “the public’s trust in the media is not only extremely low but falling,” but they trust the media they like.

A significant relationship between community media and community members establishes a trust that creates true sustainability. Community media can start to build that trust by encouraging community engagement.

Encourage Development Of More Community-Driven Content In Diverse Populations

Community-driven content often results in community cohesion, bringing a community closer together and converting its members into brand advocates. However, commercial-driven media often neglects to create content that reflects every community it serves.

Community radio provides a platform where people of color can create content that reflects who and what they are. Aguilar says, “community radio provides air-time at, in most cases, zero cost to the community to represent not an advertiser or particular tone of voice, but instead the people, culture, and stories in an institutional broadcast format is something you find nowhere.”

In The Nation, Victor Pickard writes, “As revenues for hard news vanish, the growing emphasis on clickbait and sensationalism continues to degrade journalism and squander the public’s trust.”

Community media centers and community radio stations that work to increase community-driven content from its marginalized people participate in the process of improving public trust and confidence. By creating a space where minority communities have the tools to spread their message to a larger audience, community media provides a platform that allows authentic relationships to develop, grow and thrive.

What can community media do?

• Provide use of community media resources like video, audio recording tools, lighting, and training with immigrants, African American, Asians, Latino and LGBT organizations.

• Encourage local youth to share their news using community media centers.

• Encourage non-profit organizations dedicated to working with low-to-moderate income communities to use community media to improve awareness of their mission

Encourage More Diverse Storytelling

study conducted by The Opportunity Agenda notes “a troubling link between media portrayals and lowered life chances for black males.” That study found that the media often exaggerate negative associations, like unemployment and poverty, of black males, while positive associations are often limited to sports and physical achievements. According to the same study, the media mostly ignores historical antecedents of black economic disadvantage. These stories often result in an exaggerated view of criminality and violence in black males.

For people of color who need to tell their own stories, it’s important that community media not only provides a platform for those stories but also ensures that the community is aware the platform is available and accessible.

What can community media do?

• Participate in public community events hosted by minority communities.

• Attend events hosted by your local community center.

• Post flyers at local churches and schools in your target communities.

The Department of Communication at the University of Washington offers a storytelling course that “teach[e]s students storytelling skills, along with a fundamental strategic underpinning, to help create deep connections between storytellers and audiences.” Classes and workshops like these can teach community media professionals valuable skills they might be lacking.

Storytelling drives community media and begins a long and mutually beneficial relationship with every member of the community. James Alexander Robinson (who curated “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival) defines storytelling as “the power to affect the heart and head, ideas and ideals, to disclose the truth, to change lives.” Community media provides minority communities with a platform to tell their story and speak their truth.

What can community media do?

• Provide training in documentary making and digital storytelling to community members.

• Provide training in radio broadcasting and podcasting to community members.

Encourage More Minority Groups To Participate In Civic Affairs

Community media creates a free and public platform where minorities can participate in civic affairs. This platform creates a space that meets the economic, cultural and social needs of all communities. As community media continues to evolve, its mission must continue to expand to include services dedicated to minority communities.

What can community media do?

• Research the community’s needs and determine how to effectively reach the community.

• Work with your community partners to establish an effective community outreach strategy.

• Create authentic alliances with your targeted communities by always asking “how can we help you?”

Key Takeaways 

It’s important for community media to encourage minority communities to engage. To do this, media centers must encourage an increase in community-driven content and diverse storytelling. Community media centers must also encourage minority groups to participate in civic affairs. These efforts will improve the relationship between community media and minority communities, in addition to creating alliances that are mutually beneficial.

Original publication on Forbes: How Community Media Can Encourage Minority Communities To Engage

 

Author: Genia Stevens is Managing Partner at Belwah Media, specializing in helping community media with digital marketing, community outreach, and content repackaging. Genia has written for Business.com, Forbes, Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, Engadget, and Huffington Post. Follow Genia on Twitter.

 

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