The Black Narrative, a Poynter College Media Project
The A&T Register
Alexis Wray, editor in chief and project lead
The Black Narrative examines how local media outlets in Greensboro, N.C. cover North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T).
N.C. A&T is the largest public HBCU (historically black college/university) in the nation and just like other HBCUs, N.C. A&T holds a lot of history. N.C. A&T is well known for the A&T Four (four students of N.C. A&T that started the sit-in movement 1960 at Woolworth’s Lunch Counter), as well as the 1969 Greensboro Uprising; along with these two prominent moments in history are stories of activism, bravery, history, and black individuals whose stories are untold, misconstrued, unbalanced, and lost.
N.C. A&T receives local media coverage for a variety of events, including a recently announced $9 million STEM grant and the two-time MEAC-champion-winning football team.
However, when crimes occur near campus, the local media outlets are quick to link the crime to both the campus and the students. Such coverage seems to target the school’s location and perpetuates a stereotype that N.C. A&T is a dangerous university.
The purpose of our project became clear once we realized the narratives that were being forgotten and misconstrued by the local media. The consistent lack of the black perspective in their coverage to us now means we could become a part of the solution and change how the media portrays the “Black Narrative.”
We conducted an in-depth media analysis for the calendar year 2018 of crimes near our campus. We added five additional categories to the research because we did not find what we sought. Our initial search term was “crime.”
When we did not find that, we broadened the scope of our investigation to include these categories and to include coverage of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) to our research to give a wider pool of comparison:
3. General/Broader topic
With this, we found that local media outlets were not only linking those few crimes to N.C. A&T by using locator words like, near and close to, but that they were covering the athletic achievements of the university more than anything else.
To us, it is obvious that there is a bias in media coverage of communities of color. Media tend to either criminalize black communities or only highlight athletic achievements based on stereotypical implications.
As a staff, we gained a more thorough grounding in research methods, headline analysis, data mining, digital surveying, and interviewing. Several on the staff became proficient at digital interviewing and editing.
With the transferable skills gained and noticeable issues found in local media coverage of N.C. A&T we devised a plan to offer four solutions to the five local media outlets (News&Record, Carolina Peacemaker, WFMY News 2, YES! Weekly, and Rhino Times) that collaborated with the Black Narrative.
The A&T Register will create content for local media outlets
Add a student voice to local media outlets advisory boards
Improve local media outlets online archive system
Share Coded Language dictionary
Local level - North Carolina A&T Stae University Journalism week
More than 30 attendees
State level - North Carolina College Media Awards/ Conference (NC CMA)
More than 100 attendees
National level - National Association of Black Journalist Short Course Ceremony (NABJ)
More than 75 attendees
To stay updated on the Black Narrative visit the links listed below:
Another untold narrative is an article from the A&T Register in 1979, by a former managing editor, entitled “Ten Years Later…” by Jacqueline Pender-Jones.
The opinion column addresses the News & Record coverage of the campus, specifically a news story from the 1979 Greensboro Daily Record, “A&T Riots Violence Not New to Leader of Rally.”
The News & Record’s article compared an incident in 1969 at N.C. A&T, “the most massive armed assault ever made against an American University,” during which a student, Willie Grimes, was killed to the 1979 Greensboro Massacre.
The local coverage correlated two separate violent incidents with predominantly black residential areas and NC A&T and its students, in particular, protest leader Nelson Johnson.
“10 Years Later” posited that the comparisons of the two incidents were inappropriate as they led readers to the assumption that N.C. A&T and black communities caused the 1969 incident and the 1979 massacre; only perpetuating stereotypes that the black communities of Greensboro were full of radical rioters in dangerous spaces where violence and death resided.
“It has been 30 years since I wrote that article,” Pender-Jones said.
“I find it interesting that as a student in 1979 that I wrote something on this topic that has turned out to be so prevalent and relevant to this day.”