Free Press

A Hard Look Back

November 30, 2020

There can be no future without the past. In journalism, how we tell the story of what happened can help set the course for what’s to come; moving forward requires a hard look back. Media 2070—a project by Free Press, an advocacy group focused on media reform—invites journalists to reimagine their industry by documenting its origins in anti-Black racism. In an extensively researched essay, Media 2070 argues that America’s media institutions were created to establish and maintain white supremacy—and that the press continues to serve that function. Consider that, in 1969, all major outlets were white-owned; since then, journalism’s forms of delivery have changed, but the power structures have not. The news bulletin above, from 1898, announces a convention to demand reparations for slavery. Media 2070 is making a call today for media reparations: for journalists to find ways to repair the harms caused by their institutions. Equitable media is “a world we have never known,” the project’s organizers write, and we must make it together.

Camille Bromley was previously a story editor at the Columbia Journalism Review. She is now an editor at Wired.