2022 INN Index Fact Sheet: Organizations that Serve Communities of Color
By Michele McLellan, Jesse Holcomb and Emily Roseman
Oct. 13, 2022
Definition: These organizations say they have “a primary mission of creating content for, about and/or with communities of color.” There are 73 of these organizations included in this study, representing about one-fourth of the nonprofit news field.
Outlets that focus on communities of color have doubled in number in the past five years. Nearly half are local in scope, operating almost exclusively in urban areas. More than other publications, these outlets place a top priority on shifting narratives about people, places and issues in their communities.
Organizations that serve communities of color made up one-quarter of nonprofit news outlets, a share of the total field that has grown over time. These outlets made up one-fifth of the field in 2020.
Startups are driving the growth of outlets focusing on communities of color, with more than 4 in 10 startups (outlets launched since 2018) having this purpose. Only a dozen of these organizations were operating prior to 2008, when nonprofit news began a period of sustained growth, and that number grew to 56 outlets by the end of 2019. Seventeen additional outlets primarily serving communities of color launched throughout 2020 and 2021.
Two-thirds of the organizations that have launched since 2017 (24 of 36) are local. The local organizations in this group are highly urban with at least 8 in 10 operating in a metro area, city or one or more neighborhoods. All but nine operate in communities with populations of more than 100,000. Only four of the 73 target rural audiences.
Mission & Impact
This group stands out from the rest of the field in the impact the publications seek. Nine in 10 publishers say a top priority is to “shift narratives about an issue, place or group of people.” This contrasts with other outlets that are more likely to put a higher priority on prompting government action, exposing wrongdoing or promoting civic engagement.
Nearly half of outlets in this category say they focus on providing explanatory journalism and analysis rather than covering current events or producing investigative reporting. Nevertheless, more than 8 in 10 outlets have at least one investigative reporter on staff and nearly two-thirds (64%) employ two or more investigative reporters or staff.
In terms of journalism mission, nearly half of outlets primarily serving communities of color say they focus on covering a few related topics rather than covering the news more broadly.
Outlets primarily serving communities of color have a wide range of total annual revenue, as might be expected based on their varied geographic scope. Median annual revenue per outlet was $472,000 in 2021, slightly lower than the year before. Total revenue ranged from $13.5 million for one large, well-established national outlet to less than $100,000 for a half dozen smaller, mostly local organizations. Three in 10 outlets, the majority being local outlets, operate with revenue of less than $250,000.
Share of foundation funding: Foundation funding for organizations focused on serving communities of color equaled – at least in proportion – the amount of investment for the rest of the field. About one-fourth (28%) of the nonprofit journalism workforce operates at an organization whose primary mission is serving such communities. In 2021, 29% of foundation funding went to those organizations. While encouraging, these numbers don’t address the extent to which BIPOC-led and focused organizations are playing catch-up. Nor do these numbers imply foundation funding will remain stable or grow for this cohort in the future. But the data at the very least suggest a sign of momentum that should encourage funders to double down.
Revenue outlook: Some organizations primarily serving communities of color operate in communities that do not have a lot of wealth, so developing a significant donor base within the community may pose challenges. Continuing foundation support will be crucial as these outlets explore funding methods.
The median number of employees per outlet is 6, and the number of paid employees per outlet ranges from 0 to 107.
Well over half, 57%, of personnel in these organizations are people of color, more than 20 percentage points higher than in the field as a whole (35%). White people make up about one-third of all employees.
Three-quarters of these outlets say people of color make up 40% or more of their personnel, compared to about one-fifth for the rest of the field. Some 80% say their staff is as diverse or more diverse than their audience.
AUDIENCES AND DISTRIBUTION
As a group, outlets primarily serving communities of color are most likely to seek to attract Black and Hispanic audiences. Six in 10 say they target Black audiences and more than half say they target Hispanic audiences.
The data shows a mix of approaches to reaching audiences, which is most likely driven by the geographic scope or the revenue model of the outlets rather than the mission of serving communities of color. Notably, however, one-fifth of these organizations use text messaging as a supplemental delivery method, about three times the rate of their counterparts.
Similar to the rest of the field, most of these organizations reach their audiences via direct platforms such as websites or newsletters. Nearly one-fifth (18%) primarily reach audiences via third-party publication. They estimate their work was carried regularly by nearly 1,450 publications, primarily newspapers and digital outlets. The median number of publication partners per outlet was 4, however the median ranges from 17 for national outlets to 3 for locals.