Arianna Huffington will expand her niche internet news sites to focus on African Americans, possibly as soon as March. The question is whether Global Black will become something like black Barbie, a plastic HuffPost body with painted skin.
Global Black is slated to be a co-creation between Huffington and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson. Derek Murphy, already a HuffPost senior vice president, will be chief operating officer.
Mercedes de Uriarte has argued for two decades, with little avail, for mainstream media to follow alternative media’s models in seeking out diverse audiences. After all, far more ethnic minorities actually read, watch, and listen to alternative media owned by people who look like them rather than news produced by people who do not. The reason is simple: news claiming to target the entire public most often only covers the dominant culture well. Poynter’s Richard Prince complained mightily less than two weeks ago that online news organizations failed to share diversity numbers on their staffs, a vital statistic in monitoring minority recruitment and retention. Study after study shows that a more diverse staff helps, though does not guarantee, better coverage of minority communities. Prince particularly lambasted the Huffington Post for its near mono-color editorial department.
Global Black promises to “focus on current events and cultural trends from a black perspective from across the globe,” according to its media release. Whether it will be truly global or more African American centered remains to be seen.
Either way, Global Black’s survival will depend on money and partnership. Huffington Post reported earning a profit last year and is bragging that revenue will triple by 2012. But other ventures led by media giants with great track records, notably Murdock’s The Daily, are facing delays in launch. For Global Black to actually post and be successful financially, Huffington must let Johnson, Murphy, and other black leaders shape the product into something distinctive. Making a site overly centered on the HuffPost dominant culture brand will create an ethically questionable and financially unprofitable product.