COVID and the Black Community: Communication in Times of Crisis

Takeaways from Session 1 of the New America / Indianapolis Recorder Series
Blog Post
April 1, 2020

On Tuesday March 31, New America Indy and The Indianapolis Recorder kicked off an online series on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Black Community. In this first conversation, moderated by New America's Molly Martin, we were joined by:

  • Alan Bacon - Senior Director, Social Innovation Fund - United Way of Central Indiana
  • Oseye Boyd - Editor, The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and Indianapolis Minority Business Magazine
  • The Honorable André D. Carson, U.S. Representative for Indiana's 7th Congressional District
  • Ashley Gurvitz – Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for Northeast Unification
  • Sean Jones - WQRT
  • Shauta Marsh - Director of Programs & Exhibitions, Big Car Collaborative
  • La’Toya Pitts - Executive Director, Christamore House

A few takeaways and themes from the discussion:

  • Trust, credibility, relationships, and representation are key. Systemic biases, racism, and inequitable practices by predominantly white institutions have created an understandable skepticism on the part of place audiences. It is important that newsrooms, panels, community outreach organizations are representative and inclusive of black voices. For information to flow well and be trusted, media and service organizations must build relationships, be transparent, and own up to mistakes.
  • The Pew Research Center finds that Black audiences tend to trust local news sources more than white audiences. We discussed how the legacy of community-based, black-owned media helps support that trust.
  • Only 6% of news directors nationwide are Black, and only 7% of newsroom staff overall. It is important to cultivate Black leaders in media, government, healthcare, and community outreach so that all residents can see themselves and can find cultural competency in their institutions.
  • Black households in America are more likely than white households to rely only on a smartphone to connect to the internet. There is also as 13% gap between Black and white households reporting home broadband service. At a time when institutions and businesses that have provided WiFi and internet access are closed (libraries, cafes, schools), organizations must turn to peer-to-peer communication and taking personal responsibility to "Telephone Game" important messages. Guests discussed using hard-copy newspapers, local radio, flyers/door hangers, "front yard" engagement at a safe physical distance, WiFi at community anchors (e.g. in IUPUI's parking lots), and streaming religious services to share information.

You can watch the full session below and read the full transcript here.

We look forward to the next conversation and thank our co-hosts, The Indianapolis Recorder, and community partner WFYI Public Broadcasting.

Indianapolis Recorder