Changing the Narrative: How News Media Covers Race in America

July 14, 2020  • Aspen Digital

This is the first of three programs in our Changing the Narrative series, which looks at the construction and representation of race in journalism, entertainment, and book publishing.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the ensuing national outcry, have thrust the issue of race to the center of the news agenda. All too often, sensationalist reporting of unrest in communities has overshadowed the institutional and systemic racism that Black Americans face. As the first part of our new series, this program explores how issues of race and racism are framed by news media, the implications of these representations, and how journalists can best tell stories that shed a light on systemic inequity.

We are joined by:

Malkia Devich Cyril is a writer and public speaker on issues of digital rights, narrative power, Black liberation and collective grief. Devich-Cyril founded the Youth Media Council in 2002 and co-founded MediaJustice in 2009 — a national hub boldly advancing racial justice, rights and dignity in a digital age. After more than 20 years of executive leadership, Devich-Cyril now serves as a Senior Fellow at MediaJustice.

Johnita P. Due is Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for WarnerMedia News and Sports, the parent company of CNN. Based in CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta, she reports to Jeff Zucker, Chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports & President, CNN Worldwide. Previously, Due served as vice president and assistant general counsel of CNN, joining CNN in 2003. From 2005-2013, Due served as CNN’s chief diversity advisor. She chaired CNN’s award-winning Diversity Council and provided guidance to CNN management on content, marketplace, workforce and workplace initiatives

Stacy-Marie Ishmael is the editorial director of The Texas Tribune. Prior to moving to Austin, she was a senior editor at Apple, the managing editor for mobile at BuzzFeed News, and vice president of communities at the Financial Times. Headshot by Kevin Abosch. 

Susan Smith Richardson is the chief executive officer for the Center for Public Integrity. She was previously the editorial director of Newsroom Practice Change at Solutions Journalism Network, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to increase civic engagement and strengthen democracy. Prior to that, she was editor and publisher at the Chicago Reporter, a nonprofit investigative newsroom that focuses on race, poverty and income inequality, and managing editor at the Texas Observer, a venerable voice for independent journalism in the state. She has been an editor at the Chicago Tribune and the Sacramento Bee, where she led a team that reported on grassroots efforts to rebuild South Central Los Angeles after the 1992 unrest. She has appeared multiple times on the list of most powerful women in Chicago media.

Vivian Schiller is executive director of Aspen Digital. Over the last 30 years, Vivian has held executive roles at some of the most respected media organization in the world. Those include: President and CEO of NPR; Global Chair of News at Twitter; General Manager of; Chief Digital Office of NBC News; chief of the Discovery Times Channel, a joint venture of The New York Times and Discovery Communications; and head of CNN documentary and long form divisions. Documentaries and series produced under her auspices earned multiple honors, including three Peabody Awards, four Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, and dozens of Emmys. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and a Director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian. She is also strategic advisor to Craig Newmark Philanthropies.