URL Media is one year old. Here’s what he’s accomplished supporting black and brown newsrooms – Poynter
S. Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese had that moment when they knew they had to build something with existing newsrooms, not rebuild them or create new ones.
“There was yet another story about mainstream media and the racism it faced in its upper ranks,” Kalita told Poynter’s Mel Grau last October. “I called Sara. We had seen enough by then. I remember one of us saying, “We have to do something. And the time is now.
That was July 2020. In January 2021, the former senior vice president for news, opinion and programming at CNN Digital (Kalita) and CEO/president of WURD Radio in Philadelphia (Lomax-Reese) spear URL Media. URL stands for “uplift, respect, and love,” and the URL homepage describes their work as “a decentralized, cross-platform network of high-performing black and brown media organizations.” We will share content, distribution and other resources to improve reach, increase revenue and build long-term sustainability.
URL Media launched a year ago today. Over email, I asked the founders about the past year, starting with what’s changed since they first brought together eight network member newsrooms.
“Globally: We see deeper, more sophisticated ways of dividing the country along racial lines,” Lomax-Reese said. “The Virginia governor’s race was a model for mobilizing white voters around the issue of critical race theory. Dog whistles are real. We are seeing increased restrictions on the right to vote as we approach the 2022 midterm elections. And COVID fatigue seems to be numbing the country just when we need the energy to fight for reproductive rights, voting, health care, education and everything. This is why the URL and the work of all our BIPOC media partners is absolutely essential at this time. We need diverse and trustworthy voices to chronicle the truth of our current reality.
In URL Media’s first year, he:
Holding a monthly roundtable, “Meet the BIPOC Press”, on “The Laura Flandres showbroadcast on 280 public television channels
Grown to help its members with coaching and talent development
I got the network newsrooms on Apple News, “what mainstream newsrooms have taken for granted for years to reach the masses,” Kalita said. “Our BIPOC newsrooms don’t always have the developers or audience managers to allow this, so it felt like a real feat.”
Among the 10 URL newsrooms, there is also a common thread of generosity and openness, Lomax-Reese said. Kalita, who is the founder and publisher of Epicenter NYCOkay.
“I often joke that our members are the same because we all grew up with extra relatives living in our basement and strangers showing up at the dinner table,” Kalita said. “I say this because a spirit of generosity runs through each of our newsrooms. When I think about what we mean to our communities in this deadly pandemic that has sickened us disproportionately, even killed us, I choke. There is a similarity there but also a singularity and a customization by community and platform.
In its second year, URL Media is hiring, striving to increase advertising and sponsorship revenue and add members. I asked the two founders what we should all learn from the newsrooms URL Media works with.
“I think all of our partners center and prioritize service to their audiences,” Lomax-Reese said. “This is a relatively new trend in mainstream journalism right now, but it’s foundational and foundational to our BIPOC media organizations. And it’s been central to black media throughout history, as far back as 1827 when the first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was launched to champion the humanity of enslaved Africans.Our business models are intertwined with service, filling the gaps that exist not only in the media but also in society.
This piece originally appeared in Local editionour newsletter dedicated to the stories of local journalists