Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in America. It is often said that 100 people a day are moving to the Middle Tennessee region for the many opportunities that Nashville provides. While this number fluctuates at time, the facts remain that this area continues to remain very popular.
While to the outside world Nashville is the “It City” because of Country Music, Southern Hospitality, and growing foodie scene, what has been ignored is the deep cultural history of African Americans in this city.
There is a reason Nashville has been chosen to be the location of the National Museum of African American Music, Music City is much more than just Country. Historic Jefferson Street in North Nashville was once a hub for all Black music with night clubs that held performers such as James Brown and Aretha Franklin in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
It is the Jefferson Street area that was once the center for organizing the Nashville sit-ins during the Civil Rights era. While the protests took place in Downtown Nashville, activists planned their protests on Jefferson Street, with support by the Jefferson Street business owners and residents.
It is this same part of town that three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) sit, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University (TSU); Meharry being one of only 4 HBCU medical schools in the country. The cultural impact of these three educational institutions on the city of Nashville has been felt for over a century. African Americans from all over the nation continue to make this city their home after completing their education. TSU Homecoming has become a “Nashville Black Holiday” according to some, with the entire city celebrating Black cultural for an entire week every fall.
Nashville’s nationally recognized food scene would not be the same with out the contribution of African Americans. Many of the Southern inspired dishes that are served for top dollars at restaurants in the city were originally cooked in the kitchens of Blacks. The very popular Hot Chicken that tourists from around the world now flock here to try was created by a Black family and was served in Black neighborhoods for decades.
Black Entrepreneurship is on the rise in Nashville. One only has to look at Buchanan Street to witness this North Nashville neighborhood’s growth being spear headed by Black owned businesses such as Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria and Elevate Cafe.
It is not just in North Nashville but throughout the entire city. From Antioch to Madison African American business owners are a huge part of the Nashville prosperity in recent years.
Yet during this time of unprecedented growth the stories of the Black people who live and die in Nashville remains virtually untold. Entire neighborhoods that were once predominately African American have been gentrified with many have little to no trace of their previous inhabitants. The local news rarely mention our Black citizens unless they have been involved in a crime.
This in a city where according to census.gov the population is made up of 27.7% African Americans.
It is in this environment that the idea for the Nashville Voice was born. A discussion was began over five years ago to find a way to tell the news stories that are important to get a full picture of the city of Nashville. in June of 2018 a group of like minded individuals gathered together to make this idea a reality. Finally in October of 2018 the website www.thevoicenashville.com went live with a goal to not just share only Black stories, but to give the news from a Black perspective.
It is very simple to understand why the viewpoint of African Americans are usually not taken into consideration in U.S. Newsrooms. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2013-2017 American Community Survey data, 7% of newsroom employees are black.
There is slightly more proportional representation in local TV newsrooms, with the Radio Television Digital News Association finding in 2018 that 12% of those workers are African American. However, only 6% of news directors – who constitute the leadership of such newsrooms – are black, up from 2% in 1995.
One of the Nashville Voice’s missions was to allow newsroom leadership that is African American. “African Americans have traditionally been underrepresented in existing news outlets and we know that local news media is a primary source of information for many people,” explained Nashville Voice’s Editor in Chief Nadira Freeman. “We focus on news and events that have a unique interest and impact for Nashville’s diverse audience from the point of view of people who live, work, eat, and play in those communities.”
Freeman, along with the Nashville Voice’s Managing Editor Jason Luntz, has committed this news source to communicate the successes, challenges, and stories that are relevant to the urban community.
As print sales continue to decline more people are gaining their news from their mobile devices. Online, there are now organizations that only use websites to tell the news, giving people access to topics they find interesting. The social network giants, Facebook and Twitter, allow people to follow organizations and others that continue to post the news stories that are important to them. Mobile devices have applications that can use key words to send relevant stories at a blink of an eye.
The Nashville Voice made a decision to focus on capturing the online news market for their audience. African Americans are traditionally more interactive with online news sources than their white counterparts. According to Pew Research Blacks are more likely to follow online news with a physical action such as sharing the article on social media or saving the article to read again later.
“Black people are very engaged in news they find important online and will seek out stories they find important,” said Luntz. “We continue to provide our audience with articles they will not find anywhere else, and they continue to share them on their social media accounts.”
Articles with a focus on how African Americans are treated in the city of Nashville remained very popular during its first year. The Nashville Voice focused on the treatment of Former Metro Nashville Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Joseph during his time in office. Using both investigative and opinion pieces, the Nashville Voice was able to provide information to their audience that was not found anywhere else in Nashville.
Another popular group of articles has been the Dating In Nashville series. By hosting unique events the Nashville Voice was able to connect with its readers leading to articles that focus on real conversations happening in Nashville.
Yet is was Nashville’s 10 Most Powerful Blacks that helped to let the city know that the Nashville Voice had arrived. One of the most viewed and shared articles on the young company’s first year, it allowed many to realize the true economic and political power that African Americans have in Nashville.
The New Nashville
A city with this type of growth has many challenges including affordable housing, a growing crime rate, and gentrification. There are also many positives such as the music, food, and fashion scenes. The Nashville Voice is dedicated to covering the good, bad and ugly from a Black perspective.
The Nashville Voice begins its second year recognizing the Black Press that has been in the community for years. The Tennessee Tribune and The Nashville Pride have focused on the African American community in Nashville for decades. With that history in mind the Nashville Voice wants to continue their mission using the modern tools available to get news out to their target audience.
Together Freeman and Luntz have assembled a group of journalists who understand the history of Nashville and where the city is headed. Some of the best writers the city has to offer have dedicated themselves to reporting news that covers entertainment, politics, lifestyle and education. Following the trend of online journalism and remaining an independent newspaper allows the staff to make decisions quicker and to focus on the stories they realize are important to their audience.
As year number two begins the Nashville Voice is prepared to bring the news that no one else is covering. Through their website and social media you can guarantee access to a side of Nashville you will not see anywhere else.