By changing who frames the problems and provides solutions, The Plug and WURD are uplifting BIPOC narratives of innovation and opportunity to create change
In her seminal book, “Race After Technology,” Dr. Ruha Benjamin writes, “Innovations reflect the priorities and concerns of those who frame the problems to be solved…it is important to question ‘innovation’ as a straightforward social good and to look again at what is hidden by an idealistic vision of technology.”
Journalism can play a profound role in the questioning of how innovation and technology affect our lives. Reporting should shape policies, help us allocate resources, and so much more.
That’s why The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund is supporting The Plug and WURD with a two-year, $300,000 grant to fund an expansion of reporting and documentation efforts covering Philadelphia’s BIPOC technology and innovation sector. The goal of the collaboration is to produce thoughtful and explanatory journalism, topical radio segments, and virtual events connecting local leaders and innovators using both organizations’ platforms.
“This funding comes at a critical time for our newsroom and for business and tech journalism at large. Journalism is long-overdue for producing thoughtful and meaningful narratives about the innovation shaping Black and Latinx communities and the entrepreneurs shaping markets and society. We are beyond thrilled for the support of The Knight-Lenfest Fund and their continued commitment,” said Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug.
Dorsey and Sara Lomax-Reese, the president and CEO of WURD Radio, began their partnership in 2020 under an earlier grant from The Knight-Lenfest Fund, examining the potential changes in the economy as a result of the pandemic, along with its effects on Black and Latinx business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders in technology. While many people tune out the news because of negative or unrepresentative coverage, the partnership between The Plug and WURD focuses on producing thoughtful, solutions-oriented journalism that contributes to a just society and appeals to audiences with useful information that comes from a position of strength.
The Plug and WURD are owned and led by Black women, positioning these organizations to carry out this work in service of the community and help change the way journalists cover the tech economy. The collaboration also spans generational audiences, amplifying robust community discourse grounded in decades of wisdom and experiences that can move ideas forward.
The collaboration will take a solutions-focused approach with reporting that will hold the investing community accountable for delivering on the pledges they have made to increase funding for Black and Brown tech entrepreneurs. It will also monitor the evolving job market that is reeling from “the great resignation.” The coverage will examine startups and business ecosystems in other cities around the United States to identify trends that can inform and inspire the broader Philadelphia community and investors on opportunities for growth.
In order to pursue these goals, The Plug and WURD will create a partnership network with journalism and community organizations focused on the tech sector and innovation economy. They hope to establish strategies that other news outlets can embrace to improve their coverage of Black and Latinx businesses and founders. As a result, the grant will also fund the creation of a best practices guide that newsrooms, journalists, and ecosystem leaders reporting on and supporting BIPOC business creation across the country can use to improve their processes.
The two organizations plan to launch the project in May.
“We are thrilled to continue working with The Plug to expand our coverage of Black and Brown tech innovators in the Philadelphia region,” Lomax-Reese said. “Equally important in this collaboration is shining a spotlight on how funds and resources are deployed to support BIPOC tech entrepreneurs. Strengthening the Black tech business ecosystem is a key ingredient to help alleviate the persistent high unemployment and poverty rates in Philly’s Black communities.”
The Plug and WURD are searching for a Philadelphia reporter to join this collaborative as well as additional sponsors for the project. To learn more about the job and apply, click here.
“As the ramification of the pandemic continues along with the acceleration of systemic inequalities, the work of this partnership is needed now more than ever,” said Roxann Stafford, managing director of The Knight-Lenfest Fund. “Tech is often held up as the neutral panacea, but 0s and 1s are not immune to these forces. The work of WURD and The Plug invites us all to become active participants in shaping the future.”
About The Plug
Founded in 2016 by Sherrell Dorsey, an Atlanta-based entrepreneur, The Plug began as the first daily newsletter covering Black tech startups and ecosystems. Today, it shares insights and stories on work, business, and technology for business leaders, government officials, reporters, and researchers interested in building inclusive communities, companies, and technologies.
About WURD Radio
WURD Radio, led by President and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese, was founded in 2002 and is the only Black-owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania. It has evolved into a multimedia communications company that serves Philadelphia’s Black community through radio, events, digital and social media. WURD is also home to the Lively-HOOD initiative, which connects Philadelphians to jobs, career readiness information, and entrepreneurial resources.
About The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund
With a focus on sustainability and equity, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund is designed to strengthen local journalism at scale, by supporting journalistic excellence and serving the information needs of communities. The Knight-Lenfest Fund collaborates with news organizations, leaders and communities to grow capacity and meet journalism’s technology, business, and audience realities of the future. It believes that journalism is at its best when it is of service. The Knight-Lenfest Fund is a joint venture of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.