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Reflecting on the legacy of racist Colorado media coverage, and working to correct the harm

Dr. Auset Maryam (left) and Project VOYCE program facilitator and Black Voices Colorado working group member Tiya Trent (right).
By Jude DeLorca
Dr. Auset Maryam (left) and Project VOYCE program facilitator and Black Voices Colorado working group member Tiya Trent (right).

Media in Colorado and across the country has a long history of harming communities of color. In the 19th and 20th centuries, newspaper reporters sometimes used racist language, or reported crime stories in a way that assumed the guilt of people of color.

Even in the 21st century, that’s still happening. When Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd in the summer of 2020, conversations around racism in media came to a head. Some outlets had been quick to publish a law enforcement account of what happened, which later proved to be a gross misrepresentation of Floyd’s death. When a citizen video of the murder circulated online and in the news, some questioned why a graphic depiction was necessary to bring justice for Floyd. Others likened it to photos of lynchings, and worried the video’s pervasiveness only served to retraumatize Black people.

A group of Colorado journalists and community members of color have been working to understand and correct systemic harm of traditional local media here. In 2019, a group of local organizations including Free Press, Colorado Media Project and the Colorado News Collaborative launched a project that is now known as The Voices Initiative. They’ve conducted separate gatherings between journalists and Black and Latinx community members to collect perspectives on racism in local media, and recommendations to better serve those communities going forward.

We discussed the findings of the initiative so far, and explored the history of racist media coverage in Colorado, with Tina Griego, a reporter, editor & coach at Colorado News Collaborative — a partner in the creation of the initiative. We also spoke with Tiya Trent, a program manager at Project VOYCE, a Denver-based organization that helps youth from low-income and underrepresented communities become transformational leaders. Trent has participated in the work of the initiative.

And for added perspective on the racist past of newspapers, we spoke with Tatyana Monnay, a reporter at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism. Monnay has reported on how the Associated Press spread racist Jim Crow-era coverage to a national audience, including in Colorado.

A message from Erin:

I’m excited to let you know about some changes coming to Colorado Edition. Starting Monday, our daily broadcast program will be on a hiatus, but beginning later this month, you’ll hear more of my in-depth conversations in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Our podcast will feature stories and reports from the KUNC newsroom for a while, but is coming back with a new sound and feel and deeper, regular conversations -- so stay subscribed so you never miss an episode. It's available on  iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Colorado Edition is hosted and produced by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1). Web was edited by digital operations manager Ashley Jefcoat.

The mission of Colorado Edition is to deepen understanding of life in Northern Colorado through authentic conversation and storytelling. It's available as a podcast on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music in the show by Blue Dot Sessions.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.