A little more than a year ago, when Jossip Initiatives launched Stereohyped, it tapped former print journalists Lauren Williams to be the editor for the “black interest” site, which boasts the tag line “Once you blog black, you never go back.”
Written with attitude, humor and at times a sense of horror at the mess we humans can make, the site provides one stop shopping for those who enjoy everything from Beyonce to Barack, from the serious to the celebrity.
On any given day, Williams will post an item and links on subjects ranging from an historical overview of the racially awkward comments made by Sen. Joe Biden to the fact that Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps listens to rapper Lil Wayne before he competes.
Some of the most interesting posts are triggered by breaking news, such as after the acquittal of the police officers who shot an unarmed groom on the eve his wedding. That afternoon Williams posted a link to the University of Chicago’s Stereotyping and Prejudice Research Laboratory that where you can assess whom you would shoot and how quickly you would shoot them according to their race.
Below Lauren Williams describes her work in her own words.
How would you describe your blog?
Stereohyped is a black-interest blog where visitors can get politics, current events, entertainment, and celebrity gossip all in one place. Depending on a news cycle, some days it will look like a gossip blog and some days it will look like a political blog, but I generally try to stay in the center on the Barack and Beyonce spectrum.
Who is your audience?
When Stereohyped started, I thought the audience would be made up of 20- or 30-something black professional women. I was right, for the most part, but I never could have guessed that beyond the core demographic, Stereohyped would attract so many different readers of all ages, ethnicities, races, and nationalities. The audience is definitely a mixing bowl, and I love that there is a wide variety of perspectives in the comment section.
What are your goals?
Stereohyped is still relatively young in the blog world, and my goals are simple. I would like to see the site continue to grow, attract more readers, and maybe inform a few people and change a few minds along the way.
What are you proudest of?
Before Stereohyped launched, I was very worried that my voice, my style, and the topics that interested me were not going to appeal to a significant number of readers. I was pretty sure that I would eventually have to compromise my vision in some way in order to increase readership and make myself more appealing to a wide range of readers. That hasn’t happened. I’m proud that I’ve been able to remain true to myself and build a steady, loyal readership at the same time.
What is your background?
I have a Masters degree in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and I began my career as a newspaper reporter at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. After a year on the education beat, I decided that traditional journalism wasn’t for me and began a switch to the online world that would eventually lead me to Stereohyped.
Do you think of yourself as a journalist?
Yes. Is what I do for a living journalism? Sometimes. For better or worse, bloggers are not governed by the same stringent ethical guidelines as traditional journalists, and there is a much higher premium placed on entertaining readers. This results in a lot of bad information floating through the blogosphere — bad information that mainstream journalists sometimes pick up! Having a journalism background helps me to wade through this, and if I’m knowingly posting an unsubstantiated rumor I’ll label it as such. But just like a columnist at a daily, I’m in the information gathering and delivery business, with a dose of personal opinion thrown in. My methods are different — although I do some traditional reporting for the blog occasionally — but the general objective is the same.
Where do you see the future of journalism?
Online, all the way. Sadly, I don’t think that traditional print journalism will be able to stay afloat as people turn to the internet for their information more and more. And even though a lot of traditional journalists hate blogs and bloggers, I think the two warring groups have begun to forge a symbiotic relationship that will continue to grow. At this point, the younger generation of journalists probably read — and get their enterprise ideas — from blogs just as much as bloggers read and get their ideas from newspapers and magazines.
What blogs do you read?
Too many to list! For the fluff, I read all of the major black (and “mainstream,” for that matter) gossip blogs. For the substance, I like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos, as well was black political blogs like Jack & Jill Politics. There is a proliferation of style blogs out there that are geared toward blacks that I find pretty addictive, like Shake Your Beauty (full disclosure: my sister writes it), Afrobella, and The Fashion Bomb. Really, I could go on for hours. I subscribe to the RSS feeds of hundreds of blogs covering all different topics. I’m definitely a blog junkie.
How do you get your news?
I get my news from a variety of sources, but the big three are tips from readers, online newspapers and news magazines, and other blogs. I write about 14-15 posts a day, and when I’m not actually writing, I’m scouring the web for news stories and inspiration for original features.
What do you think about the power of the black blogosphere?
It can’t be denied! A hallmark moment happened last year with the Jena Six. Before most newspapers even made mention that anything was going on, entire blogs were devoted to this particular cause. The mainstream media would have never taken notice if it weren’t for the serious coverage the case was getting on black blogs. The black blogosphere was instrumental in calling attention to the issue and effecting change in the case.
Even though its 2008, it is still a struggle to get “black” topics — ranging from criminal justice to entertainment — covered with any sort of regularity or depth in the media. The black blogosphere not only balances that out, it also serves as a constant reminder to journalists that these things are happening in the black community, and people are hungry for consistent information. I’m not talking about the occasional, lazily-reported piece, for which the reporter camped outside of the local black church and area beauty parlors and barber shops for quotes. These annoy me to no end. Do you know why? I don’t go to church, and I do my own hair. For that matter, I don’t have an absentee father, I don’t know anyone who is in jail, and I went to college and graduate school. Most of the people I know are like me. There’s a larger community out there than is portrayed on cable news, in the papers, and even on television and in movies. I like to think that the black blogosphere is a microcosm of that larger community.