David Morgan, Founder & President of the Multicultural Media & Correspondents Association (MMCA), and Linda Miller, the manager of the Donald Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI), have each declared that a robust, resilient, and diverse media ecosystem count as essential to a community’s well being.

Linda Miller, Manager, Donald Reynolds Journalism Institute

The duo said making financing available for multicultural and local news publishers is as important as affordable housing, reliable transportation, and access to capital.

That’s why they’ve announced a new partnership that targets the needs of local publishers.

As part of RJI’s Inclusive Media and Economies Project, RJI, MMCA, and Dynasty Consulting have teamed up to help publishers of color tap into community development, revitalization, and reinvestment funds.

They have pledged that the organizations use those investments to test new revenue strategies and build more sustainable business models.

RJI will provide seed money and administrative support to the partnership, and MMCA and Dynasty will develop the engagement strategies and facilitate pilot projects with individual publishers. 

“Multicultural media have long played a critical role in the civic, social and economic health of communities,” Morgan noted. “They are connectors and convenors. They create jobs. They are trusted sources of relevant, actionable, and often life-saving information for the very populations that community-centered financing was created to serve.”

He added that by connecting the dots between community media and community development, the groups hope to create an entirely new funding source for media outlets serving communities of color, positioning them to advance a more inclusive narrative of the economy— and to compete in that economy.

Miller said the institution many often turn to for funding critical community infrastructure, like banks, community development finance institutions, and government agencies, largely ignore community media as an essential building block.

“Back in April 2020, I was really thinking and having conversations about the need to come out of Covid with a more equitable economy and a more equitable media,” Miller remarked. “I wanted to explore the intersection of those two things, and it came down to the question of if robust, diverse media ecosystem is so important and essential to a healthy economy, then why isn’t BIPOC media and community media, in particular, a bigger part of the conversation having to do with economic development and community development strategies?”

She said she considered what it would take to make a change.

“It’s clear that there’s a blind spot where people who work in the community development space and where they are coming from and really not viewing and funding community media as part of the overall community development strategy,” Miller continued. “When I connected with David Morgan, we had a meeting of the minds, and we knew that we had to change that system and address that blind spot.”

The duo pointed to an October 2019 report that found that of the $1.1 billion journalism grants in the United States between 2013 and 2017, only 8.1 percent went to journalism efforts specifically designed to serve populations that included racial and ethnic groups, women and girls, and LGBTQ+ communities.

Morgan called an investment in community media an economic development strategy a force multiplier.

“More diverse media ownership gives communities power and resources to control their own narrative, and part of that narrative is the transformational impact that community development and revitalization can have on closing the racial wealth gap— and boosting the economy overall,” he said.

Officials said the partnership expands the reach and impact of RJI’s “Inclusive Media and Economies” project.

It integrates it into MMCA’s ongoing efforts to increase BIPOC media ownership through advocacy, coalition building, galvanizing public, private and philanthropic resources, and its BIPOC Media Incubator.

“BIPOC media is facing a dire situation on the revenue side and audience engagement because of the drying of advertising, their business model isn’t working well, and most are underwater, and all will need a business transformation that will take them from where they are to being sustainable in the future,” said Morgan, pointing out that future sustainability is critical.

“That will take a level of intentionality and the alignment of resources and strategy that the average media company can’t take on by themselves,” Morgan asserted. “But, because they are vital, we felt the need for a dedicated infrastructure system in which to take them through that process, and that is what our business incubator is all about.

“Just having a system isn’t enough. We know that there’s a need for new revenue sources from investing to building infrastructure and a sustainable revenue base to replace advertising. Once, we reached out to public and private entities and said, ‘you are trying to invest in our community, and you haven’t tapped into one of the strongest potential partners.’ As a result, we’ve had very little push back.”