Black in the Newsroom: Media 2070 shares documentary with West Virginia
By Collette Watson
Imagine it’s 2070. There’s a world where Black people have received reparations. It’s been years since anyone’s had to lobby for them. What does the world look, feel and sound like?
What is it like to live in West Virginia in that time?
This is the question that the Media 2070 project seeks to co-create answers to in community with the media-makers, journalists, activists, scholars and storytellers who represent Black narrative power.
The answer involves community organizing, power building, mutual aid, public policy and much more. We believe the future will be determined by the truths our society decides to affirm and share – and those truths are largely shaped by the media system.
On July 26, we’ll gather in Morgantown to view Black in the Newsroom, the Media 2070 project’s new documentary. The film examines how that media system treats Black journalists and how that impacts the larger community.
The racial makeup of West Virginia newsrooms is disproportionately white. We don’t have exact numbers, but it’s possible that West Virginia’s print media is nearly 100% white, with the exception of Black by God.
That means reporting can be implicitly biased and fail to capture the nuances and intention behind Black stories. This directly impacts Black lives and quality of life, on major issues ranging from COVID-19 to public safety.
Media tell us what to regard as important and true. And in West Virginia, generations of Black Appalachians have fought to exist and tell our own stories, but with limited resources — and in the face of a hostile state that makes it next to impossible to own and create our own media.
Media 2070, Black by God and our many partners envision a future in which the myth of Black inferiority has been eradicated, and Blackness is unleashed from the constrictions of white-dominated imagination. To get there, we must realize reparations and resource abundance. And to begin that process, we must reckon with the history of systemic media harm.
Black in the Newsroom is a documentary that follows the story of Elizabeth Montgomery, a talented journalist who earns a dream job in a major Arizona newsroom — only to face deeply entrenched anti-Blackness that threatens her future.
What does it mean when Black journalists, storytellers and media platforms have little-to-no resources or support? What is lost? What are the roots of the U.S. media system? What is the future we dream, and the media that can make it possible? How do we get there?
This film seeks to begin a dialogue in which we can answer these questions and many more, together in strong solidarity as Black and Indigenous people of color.
The screening takes place on July 26 at Vantage Ventures in Morgantown, hosted by Black by God (BBG) and a number of community partners.
“This film and event are important to energize our local Black journalists and content creators who feel disconnected from a community of Black journalists,” said BBG founder Crystal Good.
“I hope this event will speak to the urgency of West Virginia diversifying its newsrooms and doing so in sustainable and meaningful ways while also acknowledging the harm that has taken place,” Good continued. “I can dream.”
In the words of event panelist and Media 2070 co-creator Alicia Bell, “May there be no more journalism written with the blood of Black lives.”
Colette Watson serves as Vice President of Cultural Strategy for Free Press media and is the co-creator of the Media 2070: Media Reparations consortium. Watson is a musician, writer and communicator with over a decade of experience. One of her many roles as a member of Free Press is to help guide the narrative for change.