The Wakeman Agency Launches the Narrative Justice Project to Bring Equality to Media Representation
The Wakeman Agency announced the launch of The Narrative Justice Project (NJP), a tactical response to the continual misrepresentation and under-representation of people of color in the media. Through this community organizing initiative, people of color around the country will have access to free media training to learn how to leverage the media in times of crisis. The goal is to bring equality to media representation, ensuring the inclusion of diverse voices from across communities of color.
NJP was created by Vanessa Wakeman, CEO of The Wakeman Agency, a leading NYC-based social change consultancy dedicated to elevating the impact of mission-driven causes through strategic advisory services, public relations, special events, and fundraising. The project was originally scheduled to launch in New York City in late February, but was derailed due to Covid-19. The Agency was able to modify the training to offer it online.
“The idea for this project came to me two years ago when Black and Latinx girls were reported missing in the Washington, D.C. area. There was no media coverage to share their stories and alert the public. I found out about it via social media,” says Wakeman. “Their absence from mainstream media coverage made me think about what other stories were not being shared and the biases that exist in many that are shared. The racially motivated murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery—and the shocking 10-week delay in media reporting on the Arbery case—underscore the urgent need for families and communities to have the tools to ensure that our stories are being told accurately and fairly.”
The initial goal for the project was to offer training in 20 cities in 2020. With the transition to online, the Narrative Justice Project plans to offer multiple training sessions per week to serve a larger audience. This inclusive format welcomes all people of color to participate and have their voices heard, including the LGBTQ community and individuals from all regions, religions and backgrounds.
The Narrative Justice Project is supported by The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology at the University of Florida’s College of Communications and Journalism. “We were very fortunate to have had Vanessa as a faculty member this past year and are excited to support this very important initiative,” said Diane McFarlin, dean of the college. “The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology is conducting a range of research to better understand how media, in particular, can be more trustworthy. Perspectives from communities of color is critical to that effort.”
As part of the training sessions, participants will provide data via surveys and focus groups. That information will be used to better understand trust and sentiment about the media in communities of color.
“The analysis of underrepresented communities is crucial to developing better media practices and spaces for justice,” said Rachel Grant, Journalism assistant professor and principal researcher for NJP. “We have seen a series of repeated racial stereotypes that continue to oppress and justify the disenfranchisement of Black, indigenous, communities of color. This research project is a great opportunity to engage with those communities being affected in order to create media trust and credibility.”
The training sessions will offer a media coaching primer to participants to help them:
- Gain the attention of the media for a specific crisis or challenge in the community;
- Identify the key messages and facts to share with the media;
- Effectively participate in a media interview, and
- Keep an issue in the news.
The media trainings will be offered as 75-minute online sessions starting in July, on Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. EST and Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. EST. The training is open to individuals ages 18 and over. For more information or to register for training, visit: https://www.thewakemanagency.com/narrative-justice-project/