The first few news stories cover a youth business program at Target Field, the opening of a plant-based café by a North Side entrepreneur trying to end racial gaps in the city's wellness scene and a fellowship supporting people "who practice sacred and healing lifeways and share cultural art practices across generations."

The coverage is part of the expansion of BLCK Press, an independent news organization headed by Georgia Fort for multimedia storytellers working to change the racial narrative in Minnesota. With a $50,000 grant from the Minneapolis Foundation to start, Fort is working to offer more opportunities and mentorship for journalists of color who are early in their careers.

"This is a newsroom where we can give access, give opportunity … and transform the racial narrative," Fort said.

Fort has more than a decade of broadcast journalism experience and has worked full time as an independent journalist for two years, with nearly 100,000 followers on the professional Facebook page where she posts her multimedia stories. She's hired Marianne Combs, formerly of MPR, as news director after the pair worked together last year on "Racial Reckoning: The Arc of Justice,"a 10-month-long journalism project that trained women of color reporting on the murder trial of Derek Chauvin and other high-profile stories. The effort also involved co-producing the radio documentary "George Floyd: A Year Later."

Five reporters have started working with Fort this month, and their first reporting aired on KRSM, WFNU and WEQY last week. BLCK Press is launching a subscription service for other media outlets to run the newsroom's content, and also is working to secure more funding to sustain its efforts. Fort maintains that the expansion of BLCK Press will not only address a lack of local opportunities for reporters of color who are just starting out, but also create a pipeline for Twin Cities media outlets to hire from and address the lack of racial diversity in their ranks.

Fort and Combs understand that reporters of color pitching coverage about their communities to mainstream newsrooms can run into resistance, and they want to give their staff the freedom to pursue the stories that resonate most with them.

"One of the things I've learned is that it's much easier to create a culture from scratch than try to change an entire culture. … The idea is to really center the reporters' experience by allowing them to thrive and lead and see where we end up going," Combs said.

While Fort's organization is preparing young people to work at mainstream outlets, she's also eager to show them that they can pursue a career as an independent journalist like her.

"My independent journalism is even more significant now because I want to show these young women if they want to be independent, they can," Fort said. "You don't have to go work for a mainstream media outlet to be successful in this industry. … You don't need permission from the [mainstream] stations to tell the stories of your community."