The St. Paul and Minnesota Community foundations are investing $250,000 in media and educators to address racial stereotypes and underrepresentation of communities of color and some religious and ethnic groups in news media.
Part of the work will include nudging the media to ask tough questions of themselves, including: Are people of color being used as news sources? Are stories about people and communities of color positive or negative? Is the media adequately covering the entire community?
The grants are part of a national, $24 million Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation initiative launched in 2016 by the Michigan-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to “jettison the deeply held, and often unconscious beliefs that undergird racism — the main one being the belief in a hierarchy of human value.” The investment in media education is just one aspect of the campaign, which also aims to address segregation, discriminatory laws, economic inequality, healing and relationship building.
The Twin Cities was one of 14 locations chosen, in part because of the deep racial divides exposed and discussed after the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
“We are recognizing the power of the storytellers in our state,” said Eric J. Jolly, president and CEO of the St. Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations. “We want to be certain they are equipped with the means to ask deeper questions, provide more probing insights and be more inclusive and balanced.”
The Minnesota grants will go to six nonprofits, including Minnesota Public Radio and Hamline University, which will design training programs and tools to help journalists and storytellers identify their own biases and then brainstorm and implement solutions. The work will culminate with a two-day statewide media conference in 2019.
The other recipients are KMOJ 89.9 FM; Pillsbury United Communities, which operates a community newspaper and radio station; the Minnesota Humanities Center, a nonprofit events center; and ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit program at the University of St. Thomas that teaches teen journalists.
Jolly said problematic coverage can take many forms, from limited positive associations to misleading examples, such as the wealth of stories about black athletes rising from poverty when there are many paths from poverty.
ThreeSixty Journalism Executive Director Chad Caruthers said aspiring journalists of color often speak of negative stereotypes in the media and how they affect them and their communities.
“They actually matter in the real world,” Caruthers said. “In some areas, the needle is moving, but in most areas it could move a lot faster.”