If I were to run my own news publication, what would we stand for?
By Christina Sturdivant Sani
It’s been nearly a decade since I embarked on my career in journalism. As a freelancer for most of it, I’ve learned many important lessons, including this: you must study the style of your editors and the tone, voice, and values of the publications you’re writing for. If you can comply with their norms and speak their language, you’re likely to get more writing gigs. This ability to adapt has led me to contribute recurrently to more than 20 publications since 2011.
This Spring, I was granted a new opportunity: to become the editorial director of Bloc by Block News, a Md.-based media cooperative owned by everyday people who have a shared interest in receiving and creating trustworthy news about their communities.
In January 2021, we’re launching the Bloc by Block News: Maryland app—a one-stop shop for trustworthy, local news and information spanning every corner of the state. The app will feature articles and information from media publications and community outlets vetted by Bloc By Block News staff and community moderators. Our editorial team will produce original articles focusing on local people, places, and issues that are being underreported or not covered at all in the existing media landscape.
Leading the charge on BxB’s editorial agenda—alongside a group of brilliant and diverse journalists—I realized this wasn’t a case of falling in line with the status quo. This was a chance to reflect on lessons learned from past editors, publications, and my personal experience as a journalist of color in order to create new norms, standards, and principles.
If I were to run my own news publication, what would we stand for? What would we value? What outdated journalistic principles would we toss aside? What flaws within our industry would we seek to address? How could we earn the trust of our readers? And who would we value most?
After mulling over these questions and more, the BxB Editorial Team has landed on 7 beliefs that will guide our work. We’d love to hear what you think about them!
We all carry biases based on our lived experiences.
Let’s be clear: journalists are human. Like anyone else, we’re shaped by our lived experiences as people of varying races, social economic statuses, genders, etc. As such, reporters come to stories with different levels of familiarity. We encourage our writers to leverage their pre-existing knowledge and cultural understandings to add nuance and depth to their stories.
We also understand that not everyone has the same truth, but we all have the same facts. This means Bloc by Block writers should never let their lived experiences outweigh their level of dogged reporting. Familiarity is only a starting point. The real work and benefit to our readers comes when journalists move beyond our personal beliefs to uncover all perspectives, especially those that differ from our own.
Being transparent with our readers is key to earning their trust.
The Bloc by Block News Editorial Team seeks to earn the trust of our readers by being forthcoming about what shapes our news coverage and processes. Want to know where our money comes from? Want to know how we choose certain topics to cover? We’ll work to answer your questions before you even ask them. And if there’s anything left uncovered, feel free to reach out. Additionally, our cooperative model adds an extra level of accountability, from people just like you, to ensure we’re putting all our cards on the table.
Accuracy is paramount.
In this society, we’re accustomed to everything at a fast pace. This causes media outlets to publish inaccurate stories just so they’re the first to report. But what good is an article that shares false truths and misinformation? In order to help rebuild trust in the media, Bloc by Block News is committed to taking time and care with our stories. We’d rather publish an accurate article that’s hours late—but still relevant—than a breaking-news piece with errors.
Diverse voices make for well-reported stories.
Across the country, newsrooms lack both diversity and equity among the people who are covering the news and the stories they tell. We believe that reporters should reflect the communities we serve. That’s why we’ll hire writers from diverse backgrounds—including people of varying races, social economic statuses, genders, and lived experiences—and train our readers to become citizen journalists to share what’s happening in their own backyards. We’re also intentionally about ensuring that the voices in every story come from various backgrounds and perspectives. We believe these practices make for more nuanced, in depth stories.
Funding and politics shouldn’t influence journalism.
Many people believe that media publications have slanted viewpoints and coverage based on vested interests such as funding and political affiliations. While there’s no way around money and personal political viewpoints (we were citizens before journalists, after all), the Bloc by Block Editorial Team does not let either of these outweigh our commitment to truth-seeking and reporting the facts.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination will not be tolerated within our newsroom or in our reporting.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu. We stand with our brothers, sisters, and non-binary counterparts who are ostracized for merely being themselves. We strive to have an equitable newsroom culture and writing guidelines grounded in acceptance, compassion, and respect for all (wo)mankind.
People who have historically been in the margins of media coverage deserve front page stories.
Despite what mainstream news portrays, we believe that everyone has a story, and every story deserves to be told. In our original reporting, the Bloc by Block News Editorial Team seeks to amplify the voices of folks who have been silenced for centuries. We’re tired of reading the same stories about the same people, who oftentimes don’t look like us. It’s our turn to grace the cover.