Amazing things happen when great companies join forces in new ways. That sums up the short history of the Word in Black news collaborative — freshly funded with $300,000 from the Google News Initiative and launching as a national news brand in 2021.
Word in Black is comprised of 10 of the leading Black newspapers in America, including The Atlanta Voice. From New York to Atlanta, Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, Seattle, and Sacramento, the group covers a considerable part of the U.S. population.
The long-term goal is to build Word in Black into a freestanding, for-profit business co-owned by the 10 founding publishers and supported by a mix of membership revenue, advertising, sponsorships, and philanthropic funding.
“Word in Black has come so far in such a short period of time,” said Elinor Tatum, the publisher of the New York Amsterdam News and the inspiration behind the collaborative. “We will launch a national brand focused on solutions to racial inequities in America thanks to the funding from Google. Our 10 publishers have deep histories and connections in their markets — coming together to launch this initiative at this moment in time is an exciting next step for all of us.”
The funding from Google will allow the collaborative to build out WordinBlack.com as a full-featured, consumer-facing website powered by Newspack and hosted by Automattic. Funding will also cover engineering and software costs associated with building out and marketing the site.
“The GNI Innovation Challenge is honored to support the Word in Black collaborative,” said Chrissy Towle, head of news, Americas Partnerships Solutions at Google. “Now, as much as ever, it’s important that Google continues to support media covering and telling the stories of underrepresented audiences.”
Local Media Foundation, which has served via its Fund for Black Journalism as manager and fiscal sponsor of Word in Black since its launch, will oversee the project. LMA and other funders such as Facebook, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Walton Family Foundation have also contributed to this project.
With new funding and lofty goals, such as building an email subscriber base of 500,000 in the next two years, Word in Black has intentions to take an essential spot on the U.S. media landscape. Several industry experts will consult with Word in Black to guide strategy for building an audience for newsletters and growing a community contribution portal/membership model.
With the added funding, noted journalist Nick Charles will join Local Media Foundation in a full-time role managing content for Word in Black and leading the journalism efforts of the collaborative. Charles has spent the last few months working with the group on coverage of the effect of COVID-19 on education in Black communities and will now expand his role.
“We are thrilled for the founding publishers of Word in Black,” said Nancy Lane, CEO, Local Media Association/Local Media Foundation. “This project accomplishes two very important tasks: to be the leading national voice in Black America, proposing solutions and impacting change, and to diversify the revenue of the 10 publishers who will own this joint venture together, ensuring long-term sustainability for their businesses.”