Building a Diverse Newsroom

This tweet exposed the work Axios has to do to improve the diversity of its news room. It was jarring to see how few people of color the startup had working there at the time. Alexi McCammond, one of their top reporters, wasn’t in the shot, but that’s not much help.

If you click into the tweet, you’ll see folks going in on the lack of diversity at the startup. So, I was glad to see Axios partner with Howard to host one of their excellent Axios360 events. They recently hired a black journalist and I look forward to them making a concerted effort to adding more underrepresented journalists – of which I imagine this event is part of the strategy.

Building a newsroom is one of the things I’m most excited about in building CultureBanx. It’s been fantastic having Kori on board and I’ve got my eye on some other really talented business journalists. If we can execute on the vision for this thing, I’ll be able to recruit one of the most special news rooms out there.

Who are your favorite black business journalists?

No. 21: 3 Friday PM Reads – $50M to GetYourGuide | Race and Justice in America | Bitcoin, the Blockchain and Black People

  1. Kudos to fellow Woodberry Forest Tigers Johannes, Tao Tao and the rest of the Get Your Guide team on the $50m they raised from KKR. More vim to them as they continue helping folks have enjoyable trips around the world. I would be remiss to give a shoutout to Cherae and the Tastemakers Africa team and their push to get folks to see Africa as a destination for dope experiences, not just safaris.

  2. The Atlantic and Ta-Nehisi Coates hosted an important session yesterday on the state of race and justice in America. Consider taking some time this weekend to watch some of the conversations – in particular, take a look at the conversations on incarceration, sentencing drug offenders, and hope.

  3. Bitcoin, and increasingly the blockchain, has been on my mind. I got an email earlier this week listing two venture capital firms as having made more than 40 investments in startups working on bitcoin and/or blockchain technologies since 2012. Bitcoin is a completely new digital currency. The blockchain could completely change the way we give and receive information, data, money, making all these transactions instantaneously and centralizing the recording of these transactions. I am concerned about the extent to which the conversation around these technologies is not penetrating communities that underrepresented in Silicon Valley. Some next steps for me are to keep learning about the technology and to acquire some, and connecting with minorities working on developing bitcoin or blockchain technology. I’m happy to connect with people in your networks who are working on this.

No. 11: 3 Thursday AM Reads – VW Scandal | New African Development Bank Chief of Staff | Zero to One

  1. You’ve probably seen the news of Martin Winterkorn’s resignation from his CEO post at the Volkswagen Group. Rough year for this guy. Earlier in the year, VW Group supervisory board chair Ferdinand Piech publicly stated that there was distance between him and Winterkorn. I wonder if anything related to this discovery of VW vehicles emitting pollutants up to 40 times the legal amount contributed to that distance. Look for Andrew Ross Sorkin to analyze Winterkorn’s apology (or lack thereof), and Harvard Business School to put out some case studies on leadership, the impact of government regulation on commerce, family-controlled businesses, and trust.

  2. New African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina announced yesterday that Dr. Sipho Moyo would be his Chief of Staff. My Howard University alum friends will like this, considering that she did quite a bit of graduate work there. Add Dr. Moyo to the list of women I’ll be pointing my daughter to. (As an aside, the little one has been killing it at school. She turns three in a couple weeks and is the youngest in her class that has students who will turn six during the school year. The feedback has been shock that she is so young, yet so vocal. That’s my girl!)

  3. I just finished up Zero to One by Peter Thiel. It’s provides helpful insight into how one of the most successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs/investors thinks. In unpacking his perspective on the ingredients to building a company as meaningful as Facebook, PayPal, Palantir, and Netscape, he traces the evolution of the technology industry before and after the dot com bubble and addresses how our society tracks individuals to not put together the building blocks necessary to do big things. At a more granular level, he gives his perspective on building technology, marketing, creating a team of people who know each other really well, and the list goes on. I will probably give this one another read. Some of the thinking in the technology world is pretty fascinating. Some of it is a bit scary. The concept of singularity, for example, is something I need to chew on. Basically, it is that concept of humans transcending our limitations exponentially thanks to technology. Here’s Singularity evangelist Ray Kurzweil discussing the idea. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile – the book I mentioned in my last post, says not nice things about Kurzweil in the book. Essentially, Taleb is all about stripping away things that he thinks make us die sooner – technology, GMOs, etc. Kurzweil is all about building tools that he thinks will make us immortal – technology, GMOs, etc.

No. 5: 7 Tuesday PM Reads

1. Bree Newsome penned good words on the moral duty of disruption when oppression is the status quo. 

2. Deray McKesson wrote a good reflection on the significance of social media in pursuing justice.

3. Tolu Ogunlesi discusses the impact social media has had on governance in Nigeria. Similar to what Deray wrote, social media mitigates the censuring of voices in Nigeria.

Let me pause here for a bit. I am frustrated to see things heating up again in Ferguson. I’m still wrestling with the words Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote to his son. The racist system we live in is not a mirage. Note in Bree Newsome’s excerpt from Dr. King’s letter that he mentions the white power structure. We still have that today and I don’t want that to be the case when Anna Olivia is my age.

What Deray and Bree are doing is critical to this not being my daughter’s reality.We need folks disrupting from the outside and the inside. Being part of the power structure and holding the power structure accountable.

Regarding being part of the power structure, I would just love to see more black people running platforms like Twitter and Instagram in the US like 2go does in Nigeria. The impact of black people on platforms like Twitter and Instagram is tangible, so when an Instagram account like that of the Dream Defenders is deleted for a short period, I feel anxious. A feeling of being “allowed” exists, and that feels like a cap on the struggle we see going on in America.

The work of folks like Mellody Hobson and John Thompson is critical in getting to those and shaping decisions that impact millions.

Alright.

4. Google, Inc is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc. I closed the post before I realized that this was huge. I look forward to hearing what Clayton Christensen has to say about what this means for disruptive innovation.

5. I’m nervous about governments and developers pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in developing Silicon Savannahs. Some are already being called potential white elephants. Two things come to mind. One. This is a long game. Silicon Valley came together over decades, the foundation of which arguably traces back nearly a century. The developments need to have a long term outlook. 100-years long. Which leads me to the second point. What crazy projects are African governments working on that don’t make sense today but could be commonplace fifty years from now? Silicon. Wi-Fi. GPS. Etc. If not at the governmental level, who’s doing this kind of work at the private sector level? That is a huge part of the foundation for a thriving future for the tech industry on the continent. 

6. This is a good piece on the danger of the big-man syndrome in the tech space and how there needs to be greater acknowledgement of the role government has played in technology. 

7. My face dropped when I saw the news or Berkshire Hathaway buying Precision Castparts for $37.2 billion. One of my uncles owns a company that makes parts for the federal government. We need to see about getting Buffett on the team!

No. 4: Thursday Lunch Views and Reads

1. Clint Smith shares his experience teaching a creative writing course at a prison and coming to terms with his socialized view of people who are incarcerated. (via Clint Smith)

2. I wish I was in Ghana to check out this cool looking art exhibition. (via Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku)

3. Sometimes, these assurances that we have nothing to worry about when it comes to artificial intelligence feels like my back is being rubbed with the flat side of a freshly sharpened sword. (via Marc Andreessen)

4. Ryan Leslie has done the music business differently for a long time. I like the way he thinks minus the 20-hour days. (via Ryan Leslie)

5. The controversy surrounding Justin Gatlin being the fastest person in the world after serving two doping bans frustrates me. He paid his dues, yet people continue to demonize him. (via Track and Field News)

No. 3: Thursday AM Reads and Listens

No. A little over a year ago, Jehiel was telling me about this idea he had for smart tractors. A few days ago, he talked about what Hello Tractor is doing while moderating a panel with President Obama. Amazing.

It is so frustrating to read story after story on America’s failing infrastructure.

Great post by Mark Suster on startup failure.

Barry Ritholtz’s Masters in Business podcast is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Here’s a great one with Dambisa Moyo, though he interrupted her a lot.

Mind boggling graphics on China’s investment around the world.

Nice rundown of the latest in the startup scene across Africa.

First Round Capital looked at ten years worth of data from its time investing in startups at the seed stage. The findings are interesting, though I don’t feel comfortable with the “Where You Went to School Matters” finding. I think that propagates some of the diversity issues in the US technology startup scene.

I highly recommend you read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me. I’ve been struggling with writing a post on it, so I’m just going to sit with it for a while. Perhaps I’ll have something of substance to say later.

No. 2: Tuesday AM Reads

It’s looking like a $3B effort to put broadband in rural America hasn’t gone well. 

Good list of African multi-nationals with sights on other parts of the continent.

Worth taking another look at a report BCG put out in 2010 on African multinationals pushing to compete in the global economy.

Critique of a new documentary on the Black Panther Party. I’d be interested in hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ response to this. 

Video: Hearing on Dodd-Frank Act Five Years Later