Why we exist
With the failures and downsizing of local news media, vulnerable minority populations in New Orleans and much of the region are facing existential threats that hold back our community and prevent us from reaching our full potential in a competitive world. While many larger media companies have the resources, they lack the desire or insight to act, and the few others are just too small to have an impact to effectively galvanize the community or to address the inequities facing communities of color. The racial wealth gap in home ownership, health care and education, as well as systemic disparities in criminal justice and voter disenfranchisement are among the issues that have perpetuated poverty and stunted opportunity for these people and the community as a whole. Being a voice to the voiceless and a conduit for community engagement, raising awareness and finding the common ground that produces a society that values all human resources and raising the standards of living for all is who we are.
Defining the communities we serve
The New Orleans project is a daring undertaking to use the power of journalism to expose and dismantle these inequities. We will be the voice for the disenfranchised. Sixty-four percent of New Orleans is Black, and we will give them the information they need to flourish and a voice to make changes. We will connect with the thousands of folks from all walks of life who took to the streets this past year to protest social injustice in the wake of the police killings of Black people. Through investigation, collaboration and open mindedness. We will provide crucial and actionable information to the people who are struggling to earn a living and the people and institutions that wield the resources to affect change. History has taught us that failure to maximize the potential of all citizenry leads to a stagnant economy, social inequity and hopelessness that drives crime and despair. We recognize the impact Katrina had on the community’s demographics and the need to inform and inspire the transplants to embrace our rich culture while helping us break from the mindsets and traditions that have held us back. These young folks who came to the city and became part of this audience have few places to turn to understand the realities facing the underserved in the current media landscape.
Developing and nourishing the next generation of journalists
By capitalizing on nourishing relationships with local universities and organizations, we will engage and invest in finding people of color interested in informing and giving voice to their local communities. We will educate them in reporting and communicating through words, visuals and other means. These new reporters will get the experience to collaborate and provide their viewpoints in other markets. By working with other news organizations, we will help lift all outlets to better serve the complete community. Recognizing that less than 3% of majority newsroom employees are people of color, our investment will create a pipeline of talent to be shared and celebrated.
We understand the challenges facing us. We know that we have to combat the distrust black and disenfranchised people have long held for media organizations. We know that they do not see themselves in mainstream coverage and when they do it isn’t fair or equitable. We know that mugshots of black men permeate news coverage while white men’s mugshots do not. We know black people don’t fall into one socio-economic category or that all black people have the same level of education. And we know how gentrification is threatening our culture bearers with the potential to damage the rich culture of New Orleans as it pushes out the next generation of our cultural icons. For example, examining and addressing the stagnant economics of a predominantly service economy should foster policies and incentives to create affordable housing. Treme and the 7th Ward, historically and culturally relevant black neighborhoods, are undergoing gentrification. The artisans in these neighborhoods helped define New Orleans’ architecture and created Jazz. Their residents can no longer afford the taxes on properties that have been in families for generations.
But we also know that African Americans want to get out of this desert of news coverage that only includes them when they have been accused of something. We know how to counter these inequities. The truth will sustain us. We must gain the trust that local news organizations have squandered and taken for granted. We call our project Verite: Truth. Facts. Fairness.
This project is led by two African Americans whose names and families are deeply rooted in New Orleans’ journalism and business communities. Terry Baquet, a former Times-Picayune managing editor who was the Page 1 editor on the team that won two Pulitzers in 2006 for their Hurricane Katrina coverage will serve as Editor. David Francis, a former Times-Picayune publisher who also serves on the board of Liberty Bank, one of the oldest black banks in the country, will be the Executive Director.
We will hire a cadre of journalists who reflect these communities. Twenty-plus editors and reporters to tell the stories – good and bad – of these communities that raised them. Journalists who will report on the issues long ignored or dismissed by the media. Journalists who live by the main code of journalism: Tell the truth. Journalist who are passionate about their community and want to lay the groundwork for systemic, positive change.
Our Business Model
Verite is a nonprofit newsroom that operates as a division of Deep South Today, an incorporated nonprofit organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, EIN #47-2158741.
VeriteNews.org is supported by grants from foundations, by contributions from donors and sponsors and by advertising. All donations are tax deductible.