How Do We Get Past the Blind Spots? How Do We Strengthen the Gatekeepers?

Friday afternoon, May 15

Host: Tracie Powell, ALL DIGITOCRACY


Julie Schwietert Collazo, Freelance journalist

Jay Harris, Public Intelligence, Inc., formerly Mother Jones

Michelle Garcia, Independent Journalist/Filmmaker

Juana Ponce de Leon, NYC Council Speaker’s Office, formerly NY Independent Press Association

Stephen Silha, Frisky Divinity Productions, Journalism That Matters

Chris Faraone, Dig Publishing, Boston (Served as note taker)


  • Self-Awareness — Where do each of us fit into the media ecosystem? What is our role in helping to shape and mold that ecosystem?
  • Participation — How can we strengthen operations and build relationships in communities where they may not be strong enough?
  • Difficulty — How do we recognize unconscious biases and initiate open and honest discussions about these subjects?
  • Amplification — How do we bring some of these issues into the mainstream? Also, how to we tear down walls between ethnic media and larger outlets?
  • Results — How do we get editors and hiring managers to buy into a genuine ideal of diversity? 

MAJOR THEME: What if the model for what we consider “independent media” was the ethnic media?

There was considerable discussion about the blanket term “ethnic media” and how it promotes a conceptual and functional “separation” of thousands of publications across the country, basically community news outlets, from the larger media landscape. Are we ghettoizing these journalists? Who is ethnic? Or better still, who is not ethnic? Could these publications that inform immigrant communities and communities of color, and which are mostly independent, be an integral yet unrecognized part of independent media, or are both independent media and foreign- and English-language local publications all “community” media? Was this a blind spot? Furthermore, are there lessons to be learned from the close relationship of these community publications and their audiences, from whence they derived financial sustainability?

The discussion predictably focused on diversity, which was seen as an underlying question of how we see/define independent media. This prompted the questions: How do we define our work and ourselves? How does that self-awareness influence the flow of information?

This change in perspective could include:

-Studying lessons in how these outlets connect with readers as donors, community members, and financial supporters.

-Notably, many of these enterprises have ways of engaging their audiences IRL, through everything from public appearances to concerts. For example, The Haitian Times supports itself from proceeds of an annual festival that today draws thousands of people.

-A lot of sustainable community publications have a strong presence online that amplify their local print editions, nationally and internationally, and can do so because they have “a captive audience” defined by culture and language. What is community and culture for “independent” media?

-An analysis is warranted of how some foreign- and English-language community news outlets have unique relationships with the communities they cover as far as creating dialogue with readers. Editors and journalists who work to inform communities of color and immigrant communities are trusted community leaders and are considered advocates as well as informers.

-Advocacy vs. Activism in journalism? Although advocacy is a common characteristic of many community news outlets, it warrants discussion on how independent media works; is there advocacy there? There was consensus that activism had no part to play in balanced journalistic practice.

-There are some answers here in the way of how certain niche media organizations already network with each other to exert influence and gain access.

-Overall, there may already be a lot of answers in this realm that can be studied and adopted, as opposed to looking elsewhere for new solutions.


-White men need to recognize / be reminded of the importance of being more than just passive participants in conversations about diversity

-Editors can sometimes cultivate ideas through their own subjective lenses and seek a journalist and story to fulfill their vision

-A lot of editors have the tendency to put reporters in silos (i.e. – the “Latino journalist,” the “Asian”, etc.)

-Michelle spoke of the need for journalists to examine how they conduct their personal lives, and make shifts at that level in order to begin the work of arriving at diversity. She also commented that journalists of color often perform the double duty of educating editors on diversity, and suggested the formulation of strategies to address “blind spots” within institutional structures.

-In many of the above scenarios, editors and outlets can tend to miss or overlook important nuances between peoples and cultures that are indistinguishable to outside observers.

-Unconscious biases across the board.

-Lack of honest exchange

-Between stakeholders and editors

-Between reporters and the communities with which they should be in close contact

-There appears to be a general failure across the board to train young and high school reporters.

-The actual word “diversity” can sometimes trigger conflict.


  • Showing young people that journalists come in all shapes, types, and sizes.
  • Educating not just reporters and editors, but media relations people and flacks as well.
  • This helps to show those in power that smaller independent outlets have a seat at the table, and can organize to amplify their voices.
  • Leverage our strengths. Couple on-the-ground perspectives of foreign-language and minority editors with the journalistic prowess of independent journalists, and establish collaboration across “ethnicities” to produce coverage that resonates with a broader audience and is more reflective of the true diversity of our people.
  • Shift the paradigm and level the editorial playing field by giving equal ownership to independent and community editors in collaborative journalism projects. All are at the table from the start.
  • People are talking about white privilege in the open, this was not the case a decade ago, and is a reflection of a societal demand that is both a challenge and an opportunity for change.

* An additional reflection from Juana Ponce de Leon:

Gail Ablow shared an excellent and grounding speech by Bill Moyers on supporting independent journalism, which I am sure you all read.  One tidbit stood out.  He mentions that the hair salon abuse of workers was unearthed because there had been money to pay people to read the foreign-language press for a year to follow the story.  What stood out for me was the fact that the abuse had been going on for a long while, but due to a lack of “connective tissue” between our foreign-language editors and legacy and independent English-language editors, legislators were uninformed and action to address the situation was delayed. Wouldn’t it be great if the foreign-language journalists were part of the team?