Blacks Need Black Media for Our Mental Well-Being and More

Black media advocates stress its value in countering negative portrayals and providing nuanced coverage. (Credit: August de Richelieu/Pexels)

This post was originally published on Defender Network

by Houston Defender

When Black media was founded in 1827, its mission stated clearly what such institutions rejected and what they strove to do: “Too long have others spoken for us… We wish to plead our own cause.”

The problem in 2024, according to a national survey, is that only one in three Blacks get their news from Black media, and less than a quarter of Blacks do so regularly. That means between 66% and 76% of Blacks rely almost exclusively on news sources they say paint Blacks in a negative light and fail to share stories about Blacks with the full and nuanced treatment Black stories, Black people and Black communities deserve.

According to Black people’s own testimonies and a 2024 Pew Research study, Blacks need the Black press now more than ever, if for no other reason than the negative impact being belittled or ignored has on the collective and individual Black psyche.

Research has shown Black children ingest, on average, 200 negative messages a day, many of those from media. The numbers for Black adults are not much different. And because scientists say human beings must receive five positive messages for every negative one, news media anti-Blackness is doing us serious harm.

That study revealed what has been no secret in Black circles. Go to any Black barbershop, family reunion or church picnic, and “where two or more of us are gathered,” there too will be the opinion that mainstream (white) media is soaked in anti-Blackness.

In 1967, the Kerner Commission – a panel established by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the causes of the nation’s 150-plus “urban riots” – called out this media bias. But that anti-Blackness existed long before Kerner and persists today. Just a cursory reading of the way historical and current white domestic terrorist events are reported reveals a consistent blaming of the victims for the violence and/or media justification for the violent actions of individuals, lynch mobs and governmental agencies against Blacks.

Negative Portrayal of Blacks

The Pew Research Center 2023 survey reported:


News about Blacks more negative than news about other races.


Exposed to anti-Black news.


See demeaning coverage of Blacks fairly to extremely often.


Believe mainstream media’s negative Black coverage won’t change in their lifetime.

Band-Aid ‘Solutions’

Blacks have no shortage of suggestions for improving the way mainstream media covers the Black community. These include imploring journalists in predominantly white mainstream media spaces to:

  • Cover all sides of the issues
  • Understand the issues’ histories
  • Personally engage with the people they cover
  • Advocate for Black people
  • Hire more Black reporters and decision-makers (news directors)

Beyond appealing to white media for salvation, it appears the only route Blacks can take to receive humane treatment from the media is the Black press. The same Black press few currently utilize.

So, what do Black media members say about this issue?

Why Aren’t More Blacks Utilizing Black Media?

Terrance Harris, Defender Network’s digital content manager

“I think many Blacks are unaware of Black media, while some lump all Black media as the same (we are not all the same), and others don’t seek us out,” said local media legend, Sonceria Messiah Jiles, publisher/owner of the Defender Network. “But we as Black media need to promote ourselves and use other media to expand awareness to show the value we bring and add to our community. The real existence of Black people is not captured by general media. Its true reflection is captured in Black Media.”

Terrance Harris, the Defender Network’s digital content manager, believes Black media should do more to be visible to its desired audience, saying, “That’s done with smart marketing to raise visibility and via long, strong and insightful storytelling.”

Laura Onyeneho, Defender’s education reporte

Laura Onyeneho, the Defender’s education reporter, surveyed readers and the general public and found that many simply place more value on mainstream media, reflecting Malcolm X’s assertion that Blacks often view “the white man’s ice as colder and his milk sweeter.”

“Many believe mainstream media has a higher production value or a wider range of content that appeals to a diverse audience,” said Onyeneho, who also notes many Blacks aren’t looking for “hard news” and prefer newer, non-traditional Black “media” offerings.

“Some Blackfolk might not care for politics and anything negative. They might want to go to the ‘Shade Room’ to keep up with the latest news (even though they aren’t a reputable news outlet and happen to have a fun and shady way of pushing news updates). Not everyone will find what they are looking for exclusively within Black media outlets.”

Why We Need the Black Press

Liz Courquet-Lesaulnier, managing editor of Word In Black, a first-of-its-kind national newsroom powered by a collaboration of 10 of the nation’s leading Black publishers, is an ardent advocate of Black media.

Liz Courquet-Lesaulnier, managing editor of Word In Black

Courquet-Lesaulnier, has seen first-hand the power of the Black press, having written about racial justice, gender equality, education, health, and culture for several national websites and print publications, including Ebony, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Good Housekeeping.

“Black media is critical to our well-being because we need news that is produced without centering – or having to answer to – the white gaze,” said Courquet-Lesaulnier, who also held the position of communications director at 826 National and served as the founding managing editor of, a platform dedicated to women’s empowerment and lifestyle, spearheaded by television icon Shonda Rhimes.

“We need to see Black America framed through an asset lens and reported on in a way that reminds us that our existence and experience is not the problem, and in fact, we are most often found creating solutions for our community – and the nation as a whole.”

Defender Network Managing Editor ReShonda Tate is no stranger to life on both sides of the media lens. As a decade’s-long journalist and award-winning author and movie screenwriter, she too recognizes Black media’s essentialness.

“So often we underestimate and undervalue ourselves,” said Tate, an NAACP Image Award-winner. “The Black media isn’t efficiently utilized because people don’t understand the value of what we bring to the table, the legacy we leave, and the importance of the stories we tell.

Only time will tell if Blacks as a whole adopt the view of Black media’s critical importance.