Newsletter: The Philadelphia Inquirer launches “a love letter to Black Philadelphia from Black journalists”

As local journalism continues to evolve, a new generation of newsroom leaders is emerging. At The Lenfest Institute, we’re proud to support those who are committed to creating journalism that is accurate, actionable, and representative of all Philadelphians.

In this issue of the newsletter, we’re excited to share the new class of the Constellation News Leadership Initiative, a comprehensive management training program for Philadelphia-area media professionals of color. We also have an update on “Wildest Dreams,” a new series from The Philadelphia Inquirer celebrating Black Philadelphians. Finally, keep scrolling for the latest on how the Institute is leading the national conversation on the role of philanthropy in journalism.


Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative welcomes 2021-2022 class

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is pleased to announce the 2021-2022 class of The Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative. Now in its second year, the seven-month comprehensive management development program will provide career counseling and executive leadership resources to Philadelphia-area media professionals of color pursuing senior roles in local news media enterprises. 

The members of this year’s cohort come from a number of media organizations, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, WPVI 6abc, and WHYY, among others. Each Fellow will receive one-on-one mentorship from an Executive Advisor with leadership experience in news enterprises. You can learn more about each of the Fellows and Executive Advisors here.

In addition, the Fellows will participate in training through executive coursework from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY and will benefit from career coaching from Crawford Leadership Strategies, a Black-owned leadership development firm. The Lenfest Constellation News Leadership Initiative is generously supported by the Independence Public Media Foundation, the M&T Charitable Foundation, and the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core operating principles of The Lenfest Institute. The Constellation News Leadership Initiative focuses specifically on the urgent need to support and advance more executive leaders of color into important management roles within local news media. 

Beginning in mid-October, the Fellows will take monthly courses on how to identify and serve news audiences, build successful products, develop new business opportunities, manage teams, and lead an organizational transformation process. They will gain a deep understanding of product thinking and how to create and execute a product strategy, become more effective in driving change and transformation in their news organizations, obtain the skills to navigate and advance in their careers, and much more. The Constellation programming is developed by the Newmark J-School.


The Philadelphia Inquirer launches “Wildest Dreams” series to showcase lives of Black Philadelphians

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently launched “Wildest Dreams,” a multimedia anthology centered on Black cultural inheritance, legacy, and joy. The project, which is presented by Black journalists at The Inquirer, will feature articles, poetry, videos, photographs, and music to showcase the work of Black creatives and celebrate the lives of Black Philadelphians. 

Inquirer video editor Raishad Hardnett described the project as “a love letter to Black Philadelphia from Black journalists” in the first essay of the series. In the essay, Hardnett wrote that they and other Black journalists at The Inquirer came up with the project after the widespread racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 and the emotional toll these events took on the community.

“We needed stories that weren’t reactive to news events or reliant on Black people’s pain,” Hardnett wrote. “Something that would let us talk directly to Black folk in Philly with empathy, compassion, and love. But it had to feel right. It had to come from the depths of our souls. It had to speak to who we really are.”

The creators of the series aim to honor the culture passed down from their ancestors and to create a space where Black writers and photographers can portray the depth of that culture and of their identities without feeling the pressure of catering to outsider perceptions.

“As America continues to reconcile itself with centuries of racism, Black journalists have had to acknowledge that we work in an industry that for far too long has required that we tell our stories through an oversimplified white lens,” Hardnett wrote. “A lens that creates the perception that our wildest dreams are shaped by white America’s expectations.”

The rest of the “Wildest Dreams” series is set to roll out over the next few weeks. You can stay up to date and learn more about the contributors through the project’s newsletter and Instagram. You can also listen to the Spotify playlist of songs that inspired the project.


News & Notes: 

• Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan last week praised The Inquirer for not calling Republican efforts to investigate the 2020 election an “audit” because “there’s no indication it would follow the best practices or the common understanding of an audit among nonpartisan experts.”

 “We think it is critical to speak plain truths about efforts to make it harder to vote and about efforts to sow doubts about the electoral process,” Dan Hirschhorn, the recently promoted Inquirer assistant managing editor of digital storytelling & newsletters, told Sullivan. “These are not ‘he said/she said’ stories — there is clear, objective truth here.” You can read the full column here

• Lenfest Institute Chief Advancement Officer Annie McCain Madonia and Director of Advancement Rebecca Forman were both recently quoted in news articles about the growing role of philanthropy in supporting local journalism. Annie told Inside Philanthropy that “Philanthropy can be the biggest and fastest-growing revenue source for news organizations.” 

Rebecca spoke with Poynter about the increase in fundraising by legacy newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, which requires them to think differently. “When you are receiving philanthropy, you are not giving a subscription or a benefit in return,” she said. 

• The Online News Association recently announced the nominations for its annual Online Journalism Awards, which honor the best in digital journalism. Each year, it hands out the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award. This year, there are two projects nominated for the award’s Small Newsroom category — both of them are from Spotlight PA. 

Reporter Rebecca Moss was nominated for “At Risk, In the Dark,” her investigation into Mariner East natural gas liquids pipeline system. The other nominee is “The Hidden Tab,” a collaboration between Spotlight PA and The Caucus into how the Pennsylvania legislature spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars without oversight. Congratulations to the nominees! 


This issue of The Lenfest Institute newsletter was written by Hayley SlusserShawn Mooring, and Joseph Lichterman

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Please do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected] with any questions or feedback. 

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