During the early days of the AOL Huffington Post merger, we had a chuckle when Arianna Huffington was named editor-in-chief of an array of AOL blogs outside of her area of expertise: Engadget, Moviefone, Autoblog and, perhaps most glaringly, BlackVoices.
No need to cringe anymore. Ms. Huffington has entrusted the site’s vision and recruitment to managing editor Rebecca Carroll, a former producer at Charlie Rose and editor at publications including Paper, The Independent Film & Video Monthly and Africana.com. Sheila Johnson, who helped to launch BET, is serving as strategic adviser for multicultural initiatives at AOL Huffington Post.
The HuffPo multicultural concept announced pre-merger called Global Black was slated to be built from scratch. Instead, AOL’s BlackVoices will be remodeled in the style of HuffPo site, devoted to African American news. The site will mimic the typical HuffPo combination of blog writing, aggregation and more traditional reporting, but there is a catch: the core writers and editors will be black.
“It’s not black voices if it’s not black,” Ms. Carroll put it, simply. “The idea is for it to be authentic… Oftentimes when white reporters and editors go out to cover black America what happens is you get the same headlines. That’s because it’s about black folks as opposed to being of black folks.”
That said, Ms. Carroll sees the audience as the broad one of “race-conscious, race-savvy people,” explaining that issues pertaining to the African American community have potential to be of interest to all. Stories from BlackVoices reporters will also be cross-posted in other relevant sections of the site.
Scheduled to launch later this summer, the BlackVoices vertical will link from a drop-down category, along with the new HuffPost LatinoVoices, also set to launch this summer, on the main site. (The drop-down has yet to be named; we can’t blame them, it’s a tricky one.)
Trymaine Lee, part of the Pulitzer-prize winning Times Picayune team that covered the Katrina disaster, and Gene Demby, from the New York Times, have already been recruited to work under Ms. Carroll. The content will move away from the celebrity focus of the AOL site and will instead emphasize more news and in-depth, thoughtful reporting.
The categories on the still-Beta site will be replaced, and the site will follow the HuffPo model of blogging in the left rail, news in the middle and specialized content on the right.
Looking to move away from mainstream coverage of black America, Ms. Carroll – a black woman herself – plans to avoid what she calls “Black headline fatigue,” in which every story she reads centers around issues such as violence and unemployment that seem to portray how “worse off” the black community is.
“I feel like I have been working on this idea of creating a place where people can go and read about and learn about and understand a nuanced narrative about race for my whole life,” she said with a laugh. “It’s really hard to accomplish that.”