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Capital B is a new media outlet focused on a Black audience

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The protests of summer 2020 calling for equal and humane treatment of Black people by law enforcement proved to be a pivot point for journalist Lauren Williams and Akoto Ofori-Atta. Williams, who had been editor-in-chief of Vox, and Ofori-Atta, who had been the managing editor at The Trace, decided it was time to collaborate on a new venture. Well, it just launched, and it is called Capital B. Lauren Williams joins us now to talk about it. Hey, Lauren. Welcome.

LAUREN WILLIAMS: Hi. Thank you for having me.

SUMMERS: Thanks for being here. So Capital B - what starts with B?

WILLIAMS: Black.

SUMMERS: Tell us about the site. And I'm so curious - why the name Capital B?

WILLIAMS: Capital B is a local and national news organization for Black people across the country. We launched with our national website and our first local website in Atlanta. We conceived of Capital B in June of 2020 at the time of the protests over the murder of George Floyd. One of the conversations that came out of that moment was whether or not the B in Black should be capitalized in news stories. The meaning behind why so many people wanted to capitalize the B, to affirm the significance of Black people in America as an important group of people - that really resonated with why we wanted to create this news organization.

SUMMERS: Lauren, tell us what we can find on the site now and perhaps some areas in which you're hoping to grow as you continue to evolve.

WILLIAMS: We are doing reporting on equity in education, criminal justice issues, Black political power - in Atlanta, gentrification and housing and eminent domain. Right now, we are hiring a reporter to cover climate and the environment. We're going to continue to build out our newsrooms and focus on the issues that intersect with really the most important factors in Black American life.

SUMMERS: Since the summer of 2020, frankly, we've heard a lot of pledges by news organizations large and small that they plan to diversify their news staff, to diversify their coverage. Given all of that, why is it so important that a product and a newsroom like Capital B exists if we take these larger newsrooms at their word that they're going to do this work?

WILLIAMS: If you've ever talked to someone or, I mean, have worked in a legacy newsroom or legacy news institution, change is difficult, and it's slow. And this is urgent. And so that's No. 1. And No. 2, I think that there can be really amazing journalism that is produced about Black people and even by Black journalists at some of these institutions. But one of the things that we really want to focus on here is not just the storytelling, even though that is incredibly important and that is a huge focus of ours. It's the who the storytelling is for. It's the exchange of information because we feel like that is power.

SUMMERS: Now, you all are also pursuing a nonprofit model at a time where there has been no shortage lately of digital media startups who are kind of looking to find their place in crowded markets. Tell me why you all decided to pursue a nonprofit.

WILLIAMS: We really felt that our revenue needed to be not completely tied to an ad-based system or a subscription-based service. And so it made sense to go the nonprofit route so that our revenue could be tied to, you know, partners that connected to the values of Capital B. The industry has morphed and changed and the business models have changed, and the legacy Black press is still here and still kicking but also in the same position that a lot of local press is in where they're trying to figure out a path towards sustainability. And we see ourselves as a potential new model and a potential new path forward.

SUMMERS: I'm curious - for you, why is it so important to empower and inform Black audiences in this country?

WILLIAMS: It's important for democracy to empower and inform Black audiences in this country. Additionally, as we've seen play out over the last two years, a void of quality information is deadly for public health. And so we want to build back trust with communities across the country that have, understandably, lost a lot of trust in the media institution.

SUMMERS: Lauren Williams is the chief executive of the new outlet, Capital B. Lauren, thank you, and I wish you guys the best of luck.

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK'S "MAKE IT BETTER (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.