Black lives matter.

As journalists we know that words make a profound and lasting impact. We know that those three words hold much complexity even though the phrase should be easy enough to support in its affirmation that Black people are just as valuable as any other human beings. Those three words hold a racial reckoning for 400 years of systematic oppression across every realm of United States society — these inequities held firmly in place by white people who couldn’t see past their privilege or who actively chose to denigrate other human beings because of the color of their skin. Until everyone in this country can say Black lives matter, and really mean it, we have work to do.

Consider this letter as the Business Record newsroom’s commitment to that work. Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values of Business Publications Corp. We have done significant work to live those values, yet just like any other facet of our community and nation, we cannot accept the current state of racial injustice. We must do more. We pledge to do a better job shining a light on the issues facing Black Americans and the racial capitalism that led to them. Here is our promise: We will do everything we can to report on racial inequity in our community and state. We will not simplify what is complex. And we will empower underrepresented voices that often are silenced intentionally or unintentionally by people with privilege and power.

But it is impossible for us to shine a light on inequity if we don’t first look inward. I got into journalism to give a voice to the voiceless – but I’ve learned that certain voices have not always been uplifted by my profession. The news media have long faced challenges in properly covering Black communities. Historical accounts – largely accumulated by white people – would tell you that without the news media and television broadcasts, the civil rights movement of the 1960s would not have had as great an impact. But those accounts tend to leave out that there were news organizations that actively chose not to cover the movement. Further, those accounts tend to leave out that the majority of news coverage about Black Americans tends to focus on crime rather than the systematic barriers they face when pursuing the American Dream.

In a recent Instagram post, Brent Lewis, who is the photo editor at the New York Times and also a Black journalist, said: “One summer back in Chicago, I was taking pictures of these kids playing in this opened fire hydrant. One of them turned to me and said, ‘Did somebody die?’ The only time they see journalists coming into their neighborhood is when someone gets shot. The media shows up when things are on fire. If people actually cared about the Black experience beforehand, we probably wouldn’t be in this position. It wouldn’t feel so invasive either.”

A major reason the media haven’t paid enough attention to Black issues is the same reason many other industries have turned a blind eye: Black people are not fairly represented in leadership or at any level of employment. This is true for us at the Business Record.

These challenges are not easy to fix. But doing what is right is not always easy. While challenges persist, I’ve seen countless examples of journalism elevating the oppressed, and in doing so driving change. We are committed to doing more of that kind of journalism. In recent weeks, we have had concerted conversations with Black business leaders while at the same time internally focusing on how we can do more to cover racism and represent all voices in our publication. This is a long-term effort, but we’ve identified some of the first steps we will take.

Elevating Black voices

While we cannot immediately change the racial makeup of our staff, we promise to more regularly include Black leaders in our content, photography and events. To show our commitment, the next issue of the Business Record – publishing on June 26 – will be devoted solely to Black voices and Black issues in our community.

Regular cultural competency training

In the past year, our newsroom staff has completed a number of cultural competency trainings. We will continue to do this as a means to better understand how our implicit bias and privilege may be affecting our ability to fairly represent community members of color.

In-depth coverage of racism

While we take pride in our daily news coverage, the real value of the Business Record is in-depth content and conversations focused on helping businesses do business better. We know overcoming racial injustice is key to that. Our goal with covering racial issues, and the Black experience in particular, is to dive deep, provide context and empower those seeking solutions. There are several stories in the works and we welcome any suggestions.

Holding ourselves accountable


To ensure that we are holding ourselves accountable for this coverage for the long term, we will be creating a racial equity advisory board. This collective board will comprise folks from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but we will also include smaller groups for each identity represented in recognition that people of color have different experiences in American culture based on the color of their skin. These board members will not only help share story ideas about issues they are facing, but also will be asked to tell us when we fall short. Our first goal with the advisory board will be to have specific guidance on lifting Black voices and issues. We are still in the planning stages of creating this board, but expect to have more information to share in the next month. If you are interested in learning more about the board, please feel free to reach out to me.

This is only the beginning. To the Black folks in our community who are struggling: We see you, we hear you and we will take action. You have our word.

We welcome any thoughts and feedback.
     
Reach out to me at emilybarske@bpcdm.com or 515-661-6085.