Photo Courtesy of RJI

Changing the Narratives Part 2:

NCRC is a nonprofit that works to close the wealth gap and end discrimination in lending, housing and business. When a bank seeks to merge with or acquire a competitor, NCRC leverages the rights of community groups to testify about the bank’s CRA performance and to press banks to commit to increasing their lending and investment in low-income communities and communities of color. In April, for example, NCRC and its local allies finalized a “community benefits” agreement with PNC Bank, in which the bank committed $88 billion in lending to low-to-moderate income communities in exchange for community support of its effort to acquire USA Bancshares. Most of the money will go toward home, small business and community development loans. But the agreement also includes at least $500 million in grants and philanthropic support.

Silver, during a panel discussion in May, said you could make a strong case that a portion of that $88 billion could be used to support local journalism because meeting information needs is critical to the survival of communities.

The panel, “The Stories We Tell: Journalism for a Just Economy,” also included Powell, Candice Fortman of Outlier Media in Detroit, S. Mitra Kalita of URL Media (which serves as a platform for multiple Black and Brown media outlets) and Epicenter NYC in Queens, and Steven Waldman, president and cofounder of Report for America. It was the brainchild of Andrew Nachison, a former journalist and NCRC’s chief communications and marketing officer. Given the trillions of dollars that banks have pumped into the economy under CRA, the opportunity for BIPOC media is enormous, Nachison says.

And it’s not just banks. Corporations, too, are opening their eyes and wallets and pledging to confront discrimination and reverse chronic underinvestment in Black and Brown communities, many spurred to action by rallies for racial justice and an increasing body of research about the economic toll of White supremacy. Many are doing so as part of their Environment, Social and Governance strategies, also known as corporate social responsibility. Directing some of that support to community media could help corporations engage with and build stronger and more trusted relationships with BIPOC customers.

“Trusted local information and the people and systems that gather and distribute it are critical infrastructure for communities, just like the people and systems necessary to provide housing, roads, electricity, clean air and water, healthy food, reliable broadband data networks, schools, healthcare and cultural institutions,” Nachison says.

“Any institutions that control and invest capital for economic and community development need to recognize that strong and diverse local information systems need to be part of their formula for impact. That includes banks that lend and invest in local communities to satisfy Community Reinvestment Act requirements, community foundations and the web of local, state and federal economic development agencies and programs. It’s time for new relationships and new investments in local journalism — especially journalism by, for and with BIPOC communities — not because it’s nice to have but because it’s necessary for vibrant communities.”

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