The Tennessean launched two new newsletters under its historic Tennessee Voices brand to change the way we covered communities of color in the Nashville area after extensive research, reporting and community engagement.
Our goal was to go from telling stories about these communities to telling stories for and with them. That resulted in the Black Tennessee Voices newsletter, which launched on May 8, 2021, and the Latino Tennessee Voices newsletter, which launched on Sept. 15, 2021.
Nashville is a diverse community that demographically is heading toward a population over the next 20 years where the majority of residents will be Black or brown. Nashville’s African American community has long and proud history. The oldest institution of higher education is Fisk University, which opened in 1866, right after the Civil War to educate freed enslaved men and women and engendered the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers whose talent resulted in England’s Queen Victoria dubbing Nashville “Music City.” There are now four Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Nashville, and several were training grounds for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, including Fisk, which educated the late civil rights icon John Lewis.
The Black community in Nashville comprises 25% of the total 705,000-person population and has grown in prominence in business, education and politics. The Black Tennessee Voices initiative started in May 2020, but the work accelerated after the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day of that year. That led to a tripling of the number of commentary pieces written by Black members of the community in The Tennessean, a closed Facebook group and a pop-up newsletter as part of the existing Tennessee Voices newsletter. In May 2021, due to the success of the campaign, the standalone Black Tennessee Voices newsletter spun off as its own weekly publication. Curator LeBron Hill, a native of Tullahoma, Tennessee, near Nashville, who once experienced homelessness, writes personal anecdotes that address racism, equity and Black joy. He shares commentary, podcasts and stories both from The Tennessean and the national USA TODAY Network written by Black staff and guest authors. The work was featured by Editor & Publisher in its November 2021 issue for its innovation and originality.
The Tennessean envisioned that if Black Tennessee Voices was successful, we would apply the lessons to serve other communities of color, and we did. The Latino Tennessee Voices weekly newsletter emerged last September with the goal of being an English-language publication focused on Latino voices in stories, guest opinion articles and podcasts. Curator David Plazas, a Colombian and Cuban American transplant to Nashville, writes a personal note and invites readers to enjoy the work. The Latino population in Nashville grew from 10% of the population to nearly 14% after the 2020 Census, and the community is growing in influence as entrepreneurs, small business owners and on the city council.
These efforts provide a valuable and necessary public service to our community.
Judges were thrilled to see the Tennessean launch newsletters to cover and engage with both of these critical communities in Nashville. The layouts are easy to digest. These newsletters are packed with great reporting, knowledge and insights for these communities.
The Online Journalism Awards™ (OJAs), launched in May 2000, are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism around the world.